Monday, April 09, 2007

Please, just tell us what we have to pay.

Only in Australia.

Surely this can't be happening...

The Australian government has guaranteed not to prosecute employers who accidentally underpay workers as a result of acting on its advice.

The bizarre concession came yesterday after two employer organisations complained that their members were unable to discover the minimum wages they were legally obliged to pay all of their workers...

Last year the government’s new Fair Pay Commission boosted the pay of the 2 million Australians on minimum wages by between $22.04 and $27.36 a week.

But according to both the Australian Industry Group and Employers First, the Commission is not required to and has not published all of the thousands of new pay scales.

The Department of Employment and Workplace Service has summarised only around 300 on its website and said yesterday it planned to have 400 summarised by the middle of the year.

But the summaries on the website include the warning that “the Commonwealth of Australia does not give any guarantee, undertaking or warranty whatsoever” in relation to their accuracy, completeness or currency.

Employers who fail to pay workers the new rates are liable to fines of more than $30,000 per employee.

A spokesman for the Minister Joe Hockey said last night that that the only reliable way for employers or employees to find out the correct pay new rate was to phone the WorkChoices Infoline.

He said the Department’s website provided only a guide and that it was most unlikely that all of the thousands of new pay scales would be published on it.

The Fair Pay Commission is reviewing the thousands of state and Commonwealth awards it has inherited with a view to simplifying and amalgamating them.

When the number of awards had been reduced to a more manageable level they might all be published.

However he said in the meantime the Office of Workplace Services had undertaken not to prosecute any employers who could demonstrate that they had underpaid workers as a result of being misled by the website.

The Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd described the situation facing small employers as a “shemozzle” saying that those who had tried to get clear cut information on pay classifications found it impossible.

“It is impossible because Mr Howard’s agencies responsible for implementing his industrial relations laws simply don’t provide the information either for working families or for small businesses,” he said.

Mr Rudd promised to replace the Fair Pay Commission with a new independent umpire whose job it would be to review wages and to publish all of the new scales on its website and as in hardcopy.

In its submission to the Fair Pay Commission’s current wage review the Australian Industry group said that nearly six months after its 2006 decision there was still no agreement between employers, unions and the Department on many of the resulting scales.

“Unless the Fair Pay Commission publishes pay scales, the only way that such differences of view can be resolved definitively is through court proceedings,” it said.