Australia: Howard Govt typically in denial as WorkChoices law adds to feminized poverty Print E-mail
The Sun-Herald ~~ Sydney ~~ Sunday August 12 2007

Women suffer under WorkChoices

Michelle Singer


THE Federal Government's Work Choices legislation has reduced pay, increased workloads and removed penalties for women in low paid jobs, new research has found.

The laws, implemented last year, have undermined conditions and job security for women in low-paid work, the results of a report to be released tomorrow state.

Commissioned by the National Foundation for Australian Women, the Women's Electoral Lobby and YWCA Australia, the report, to be tabled at Parliament House, expands on the results found in similar research papers from NSW, South Australia, Queensland, Victoria and the ACT.

Prior to the introduction of Work Choices, the Women in Social and Economic Research Unit (WiSER) conducted a study to establish the status of women's pay and conditions.

Tomorrow's report is stage two of the project.

Researchers in each state, funded by their respective governments, looked at how WorkChoices had changed employment for women in low-paid work and its impact.

Five "minimum condition" sectors (child care, cleaning, retail, cafes and restaurants and aged care) were identified by WiSER, with 20 women from each state working in these areas interviewed on changes in conditions since the introduction of WorkChoices.

The ACT report, released yesterday, identified 12 main areas of impact from the laws, including loss of job security and increase in workloads.

A delegate for the ACT Minister for Women Katy Gallagher said vulnerable workers were missing out on improved working conditions.

"We argued as a government when the WorkChoices legislation was introduced that we had grave concerns about how it would affect lower paid and the more vulnerable of workers," the delegate said.

"Most of the lower paid workers that are being affected just happen to be women. Contained in the report are real stories and real life experiences - and the effect that Work Choices has had on them. I would be surprised if it was welcomed by the Federal Government."

Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Joe Hockey has slammed the state's findings, quoting ABS figures on real wages since the introduction of WorkChoices.

He has criticised the study sample and its methodology.

"ABS data also reports that non-managerial employees on AWAs are earning 9 per cent more each week than employees on collective agreements and 94per cent more than employees covered by an award," Mr Hockey said.

"More than 364,000 jobs have been created since the introduction of Work Choices and almost 85per cent of those are full-time bringing the total number of Australians in work to a record high of 10.4million."

Businesses were providing more family friendly provisions in order to attract and retain staff, Mr Hockey said.