ROBBED? OF $20
By EMMA CORNFORD
SOME of the lowest paid workers in the Clarence Valley will miss out on more than $1000 a year as a result of the Federal Government's WorkChoices legislation.
Workers employed under the NSW award have received a $20-a-week pay rise.
But under the new legislation, most workers in the Valley were transferred to the federal award when the changes were introduced on March 27 ? and those workers miss out on the extra cash.
Australian Workers' Union country and regional co-ordinator David Lyons estimated that around 70per cent of workers in the Valley were employed on award rates in fields such as retail, hairdressing, nursery work and greens keeping.
"A whole range of workers in Grafton, Maclean, Yamba have all been affected straight off the bat," he said.
"For example at the fish co-op (Clarence River Fishing Co-op), the workers were supposed to be getting this extra $20 a week, but because of the changes they were automatically swapped on to the federal award so they miss out."
Workers who are employed at businesses which are classified as 'sole traders' or 'partnerships' will stay on the state award and pick up their pay rise, but Mr Lyons said most businesses in the Valley were companies or corporations, which were swapped to the federal award.
"Basically, the lowest paid workers in the Valley will be worse off because of WorkChoices because especially up here in a regional area most people are employed in a private enterprise which is a registered company," he said.
"(Federal Member for Page) Mr Causley has told the unions to either put up or shut up in terms of how these WorkChoices will negatively affect people in the Valley and here's a perfect example."
Mr Lyons said the fact so many Clarence Valley workers would miss out on an extra $20 was indicative of how employment conditions would change because of the controversial WorkChoices legislation.
"In the past, people have just sat back and got a pay rise each year but they've got that through the work that unions do," he said.
"Unions have done the bargaining and people have all just got the benefits. I think a lot of people haven't really realised all the work that goes in to getting the benefits they enjoy like leave loading, but now that's something people are going to have to do for themselves."
Mr Lyons said WorkChoices would eventually lead to a possible reduction in pay and benefits for workers in the Clarence Valley.
"The thing is that even though employers might not want to cut their staff pay, the reality is that businesses are out to make money so if their opposition cut (pay) rates, then they're going to be forced to do that as well with all their new employees coming on. Otherwise they'll lose profits."