Banjo?s in IR frontline

By BELINDA SCOTT

BANJO'S Bakehouse in Coffs Harbour has become part of the industrial relations frontline.

Labor MLC Greg Donnelly said yesterday workers at Banjo's in Coffs Harbour were forced to sign Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs) providing 'significantly' worse pay and conditions than the relevant NSW Award.

And he said this was an example of what would happen under proposed new industrial relations legislation being supported by all North Coast National Party politicians.

But a spokesman for Banjo's Bakehouse said workers were no worse off under the AWA than they would be under an Award, because conditions have been incorporated into one rate and the Office of the Employment Advocate (OEA) selected which Award was relevant, not the company.

Mr Donnelly, who was in Coffs Harbour yesterday, said employees were signed on to the AWAs when they joined the company and had no choice in the matter.

"The sales employees under the AWAs are significantly worse off compared to what they would be entitled to if they were paid in accordance with the Shop Employees (State) Award," he said.

He said under the AWA, adult employees were more than $50 a week worse off than they would be under this award, receiving $534.80 for a 40-hour week, whereas under the Award they would be paid $585.64, a figure which included two hours of overtime because the award provided for a 38-hour week.

He said the AWA offered a permanent hourly rate for adult sales staff was $13.37 an hour and the casual hourly rate $16.71, compared to the equivalent Shop Employees State Award where the rates are $14.28 and $17.80.

The human resources manager for Banjo's Bakehouse, David Dilger, agreed that new employees had no choice about signing the AWA if they wanted to work at Banjo's, but said the appropriate award for the AWA to be measured against, chosen by the OEA, was the Restaurant Employees (State) Award.

This award has a lower hourly rate than the Shop Employees Award.

The OEA is responsible for assessing whether an AWA meets the no-disadvantage test. This test is designed to ensure that the worker will be no worse off under an AWA than the corresponding award.

"The AWA is assessed against the legislative no-disadvantage test and has been in place for a number of years and continues to meet that no-disadvantage test," Mr Dilger said.

"There has to be a (new) assessment for each person who joins (the Banjo's Bakehouse staff)."

Mr Donnelly says North Coast National Party MPs Luke Hartsuyker, Andrew Fraser and Melinda Pavey were all supporting proposed industrial relations changes which would lead to reductions in wages and conditions for North Coast workers, especially the young, women and those with little or no bargaining power. The Banjo's Bakehouse workers are not members of any union.

But Federal member for Cowper Luke Hartsuyker said unemployment was the biggest contributor to disadvantage in regions like the Coffs Coast and getting people a job was putting them on the path to building their skills and abilities and helping them gain equity.

State MP Andrew Fraser said he had received no complaints from any workers about AWAs, but he said Mr Donnelly had not been sympathetic to a Macksville employer who had complained about the cost of doing business in NSW.



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