AXING CONTRACTS: Federal Page MP Janelle Saffin (left) met yesterday with Jenny Austin and other staff members at SCU in Lismor
AXING CONTRACTS: Federal Page MP Janelle Saffin (left) met yesterday with Jenny Austin and other staff members at SCU in Lismor

Uni learns about rollback of hated AWAs

By Alex Easton

THE individual employment contracts at the centre of the former Howard government's controversial WorkChoices legislation began its slow death in Lismore yesterday.

But, ironically, the first of the city's workers to have their individual contracts jettisoned are the ones least likely to have suffered under them.

Federal Page MP Janelle Saffin met with members of the National Tertiary Education Union yesterday to discuss the axing of Australian Workplace Agreements in universities and the Commonwealth public service.

Since 2002, universities have had to offer the individual contracts to new staff to be eligible for vital Commonwealth grants funding.

The move to axe the contracts was enthusiastically welcomed yesterday by union members, who had campaigned against the contracts.

However, union member Jenny Austin conceded the university's administration had never been enthusiastic about the contracts and that new staff had been offered a genuine choice between going on AWAs or being employed under an Enterprise Bargaining Agreement, which allows workers to have their pay and conditions negotiated for them by a union.

"I understand most elected to stay on the EBA, although there may be a small number of staff on AWAs," Ms Austin said.

Ms Saffin agreed the new Federal Government had started its rollback of AWAs with easy targets in areas where it has a direct hand.

However, workers in the private sector would have to wait until 2010 for individual contracts to be completely scrubbed from the workplace.

"Where we can get rid of them now, we are doing it, and that sends a signal immediately that we are serious," Ms Saffin said.

The scheduling of how and when AWAs would go was spelled out in Labor's 'Forward with Fairness' industrial relations policy, she said.

Ms Austin said there were some universities where AWAs had been enthusiastically adopted and the new rules would have a dramatic impact.

However, even at Southern Cross University's Lismore, Tweed and Coffs campuses, the new rules would trickle back into the broader community in the form of greater spending by university staff who felt secure in their jobs.



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