BOEING AUSTRALIA EMPLOYEE CONTRACTS
The Hon. PETER PRIMROSE
[12.37 p.m.]: We know from the media today that the cracks are already starting to appear in John Howard's master plan to return Australian workers to the standards of the dark satanic mills. It is all in the detail. And as Australian workers start to see the detail of what John Howard and Kevin Andrews have in mind for them, they are calling their members of Parliament from the Liberal Party and The Nationals to tell them that this is not what they were promised. When John Howard was elected he said that no Australian workers would be worse off. We now know that was a lie. Kevin Andrews says that industrial relations changes are needed to create more jobs.
Yesterday, 17 of the country's foremost legal academics and economists told us the truth—that there is not a scrap of evidence to show that one single new job will be created by these changes. Australian workers will be less secure and more likely to be exploited by unscrupulous employers than ever before. But of course, that is exactly what John Howard wants: workers "who know their place". Kevin Andrews told another lie—an important one. He told Australian workers that they would not be forced into signing individual contracts. He told them they had a choice: they could have collective agreements, if that is what they wanted.
At the Boeing's Williamtown site, workers are employed to maintain the F18 fighter jet squadron. They are highly skilled and recruited from throughout Australia as specialist aircraft tradespeople. They are entrusted with the maintenance of a fighter squadron, but they are not trusted by John Howard to be members of a union with a collective agreement. These workers have been told to sign individual contracts; they have no choice. And when the workers asked for a breakdown of the wage being offered so that it could be compared with their current wages, the company refused. What we do know is that the Boeing contracts would force workers into working 43 hours per week with no overtime rates—even for compulsory overtime—no weekend penalty rates and no annual leave loading, for wages that are only slightly above the award.
This is the ugly truth behind the lies told by John Howard and Kevin Andrews. Australian workers are being forced to sign American-style contracts to give up even their most basic rights: overtime, annual leave loading and penalty rates for weekends. Just two weeks ago, Boeing advertised for new human resources managers. Boeing specifically said that applicants should be prepared to introduce major industrial relations changes to the company. What else does the company have in mind? John Howard may regard Boeing as a model employer but workers at Boeing do not accept this sort of standover tactic. They are demanding the right to a collective agreement and have established a peaceful protest line outside the company's gates.
The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union [AMWU], the major aircraft and aerospace union, has won collective agreements for all of its members in the industry—more than 5,000 members, including more than 1,000 workers employed by Boeing. John Howard is fond of telling us that he is a family man. He even has taxpayer-funded air flights to Sydney so that he can spend weekends with his family in his own home. Yet he plans to introduce legislation that will force family men and women—like those working at Boeing—to give up their precious weekends and nights with their families by being forced to work whatever hours the company calls for. Unions like the AMWU believe that the workers at Boeing have the right to have a collective agreement. The AMWU is supporting the workers at Boeing who are protesting for the right to a collective agreement. And despite John Howard's new legislation, the AMWU will continue the fight to give every worker at Boeing this same right, just like the other 5,000 members in the aerospace industry. It may not be John Howard's way but it is the Australian way!