Category: Workplace Relations

O’Farrell Government’s Attacks and Cuts

Since taking office in March 2011, Barry O’Farrell and his Government have made a number of cuts to funding, jobs, workers’ rights and services. Here is an overview of what the workers of NSW have endured thus far.


Attacks on Workers’ Rights

Taken Control of IRC and Frozen Wages

-                   The Government passed the Industrial Relations (Public Sector Conditions of Employment) Act 2011. Consequently the Government has given itself complete power to determine wage increases (or not) and conditions for public sector staff through Regulations which do not have to pass any votes in the Parliament.

-                   The Industrial Relations Commission has had its power to arbitrate wage disputes removed.

-                   So far, the Government has frozen wage increases for public sector workers at 2.5%. Whilst the O’Farrell Government has claimed this will not leave public sector workers worse off, the University of Sydney’s Workplace Research Centre found that a nurse would be $12, 232 worse off and a teacher $14, 580 worse off each year had the O’Farrell policy been applied over the past decade.

Attacked Injured Workers

-                   Government amendments to the Workers Compensation Act saw significant cuts to the support and compensation provided to injured workers.

-                   The cuts to Workers Compensation means weekly payments will cease after 2.5 years and medical costs will stop being paid after 3.5 years for most injured workers.

-                   Additionally, workers will have almost non-existent coverage for accidents on their way to or from work.

-                   No lump sum payments can be made for pain and suffering, regardless of the severity of the injury.

-                   Changes to weekly benefits, medical costs and duration of payments are to apply as soon as possible to existing claims.

-                   The O’Farrell government attributed the needs for the cuts to a ‘deficit’ in WorkCover. The cuts have shifted the blame of the ‘deficit’ onto injured workers, with the Government hoping for a reduction in insurance premiums for employers.

 

Stripped Police of their Death and Disability Protection

-                   The Government’s Police Amendment (Death and Disability) Act 2011 severely cut the support and rehabilitation provided to police who are injured on the job, as well as support for families of police officers killed at work.

Attacked Workers’ Rights to Fairly Bargain Collectively

-                   Currently before Parliament is the Government’s Industrial Relations Amendment (Dispute Orders) Bill 2012. If this Bill is passed, it will increase fines for taking industrial action from $10,000 a day to $110,000 a day.

-                   It is also important to remember as mentioned above that unions no longer have the right to independent arbitration over wages and conditions and unlike the Federal industrial relations system have no legal right to strike through protected action.

No Consultation around Significant Industrial Changes

-                   By way of example The Technical and Further Education Commission Amendment (Staff Employment) Act 2011 saw 13,000 TAFE teachers transferred to the Federal industrial relations system where they now fall under the Fair Work Act

-                   No consultations with unions or teachers were attempted prior to the introduction and subsequent passing of this Act.

-                   Similarly, Government abolished the Transport Appeals Board with no discussion with unions.

Forcing Retail Workers to Work on Public Holidays

-                   The Retail Trading Amendment Bill 2012 presented by the O’Farrell Government will allow all retailers to trade on Boxing Day and Easter Sunday which will see employees being forced to work on what should be a day for families.

-                   The Bill will also lead to backroom staff and staff of retail businesses working on Christmas Day and Good Friday.

 No Support for Equal Pay

-                   The most recent State budget has not allocated any funding to equal pay for social and community sector workers in line with the recent Fair Work findings.

-                   There are 30,000 community and public sector workers in NSW. Without NSW funding these workers will not receive the awarded increases in full which range from 19 – 41 per cent.

-                   Prior to the election O’Farrell promised social and community sector workers a fair and equitable pay rise.

Slashing Public Sector Entitlements

-                   The O’Farrell Government has applied to the NSW Industrial Relations Commission to change 98 different Public Sector Awards and enact massive cuts to entitlements and benefit.

-                   Some of the cuts include: slashing annual leave loading, cutting penalty rates for shift workers, removal of additional sick leave entitlements and parental leave.

The power of control and reducing stress at work

For many, work means stress and as we all know, too much stress can lead to ill health. But research showing that people in positions of power are not very stressed, may hold clues for how workplaces can help reduce stress for all employees.

The difficult economic climate means many of us are being asked to “do more with less”, adding to the costs associated with the stress this creates. A critical challenge facing organisations then, is how to help employees effectively manage their stress, while maintaining optimal levels of performance and engagement.

One key strategy is enhancing psychological resources, such as control, social support, performance feedback, and access to information, which help employees meet their work demands. This issue is highlighted in a study published in the peer-reviewed journal PNAS that focuses specifically on the stress experienced by leaders.

Organisational leaders have demanding roles and face intense scrutiny of their performance. So it’s reasonable to expect them to experience the highest rates of work-related stress. But the authors of the PNAS paper demonstrate that leaders actually report lower levels of stress in comparison to other workers.

And they found this to be the case even after taking into account the sex, age, education, income, and mood of the study participants. Previous research has similarly established this counter-intuitive finding. So, why do organisational leaders report less work-related stress and ill-health?

The power of control

The authors of the study attributed lower levels of leadership stress to the greater capacity of leaders to exercise control over their work. They then conducted another study demonstrating that leaders who report a higher level of authority and have larger numbers of subordinates and direct reports, perceive a higher level of control over their work relationships. This sense of heightened control results in lower levels of stress.

These results are in line with research demonstrating that work-related demands are not uniformly stressful. And that facing more demands doesn’t necessarily equate to more stress. One of the key determining features of whether someone perceives a work demand as stressful or challenging is that person’s access to work-related and psychological resources, such as control, social support, feedback, and self-efficacy.

Indeed, research has consistently demonstrated that the highest levels of work-related stress are experienced by people who don’t have sufficient levels of control at work. In contrast, jobs that provide a positive environment and optimal health outcomes are not those with low demands, but demanding roles with sufficient access to control.

So while leaders undoubtedly face intense work pressure, greater responsibility, and a high-level of scrutiny over their work performance, they simultaneously possess a greater capacity to exercise control over their work environment. And control acts as a buffer against the otherwise adverse effects of high-level demands on work-related stress.

Intervention strategies aiming to increase control over how and when to undertake certain tasks and increase participation in decision-making are likely to reduce stress among workers. But sadly, increasing control and authority is neither possible nor desirable in many workplaces.

Protective forces

There are several other resources that are also beneficial for buffering against the adverse impact of job demands and for promoting positive outcomes, such as employee engagement, learning, and development.

Our research has demonstrated that support from supervisors and colleagues reduces burnout and psychological strain, while career-related support provided by mentors increases employee engagement over time.

People are also happier at work when they feel their organisation cares for and is concerned about its staff. They are more positive when good work by employees is adequately recognised, and when there are positive relationships between managers and staff.

Most significantly, the extent to which workers understand their organisation’s strategic priorities and their awareness of how their job helps the workplace achieve strategic objectives is linked with optimal employee outcomes, regardless of whether that person is a leader.

Leadership positions are naturally imbued with access to greater resources such as authority, control, support, and access to information. And leaders have greater capacity to influence the strategic direction of the workplace and shape their own personal roles to more effectively meet needs and manage demands.

Access to such resources for employees at all levels within an organisation is beneficial for managing work-related stress. And intervention strategies that focus on enhancing such access is likely to reduce the long-term economic and personal costs of work-related stress

Amanda Biggs is Post-doctoral Researcher at Griffith University

Originally published online at The Conversation

 

Top 10 actions showing the O’Farrell Government cannot be trusted

This month will be 12 months since the election of the O’Farrell government.

These are the top 10 actions that have demonstrated to me why the O’Farrell government cares little for the most vulnerable and cannot be trusted:

  1. Cuts to allowances for foster carers who adopt kids in their care and the ridiculous and uncaring proposal to make foster kids pay rent to their foster carers once they turn 16;
  2. Cuts to vision care so that 26,000 pensioners will not be able to access free glasses;
  3. Clawing back $618 per year from pensioners in public housing by taking the income from the federal Labor government’s pension rise;
  4. An ongoing attack on workers via changes to industrial relations laws, capping wage increases below inflation, changes to police death and disability cover, watering down of OH&S legislation, changing electoral laws to shut down the voice of workers and other not for profit organisations and signs that there is more to come;
  5. The negligence shown by the Education Minister that left hundred of kids with disabilities and their families stranded at the side of the road when the Department of Education failed to organise transport for them;
  6. Opening up NSW to uranium exploration;
  7. Breaking their election promise to replace unflued gas heaters in schools around the state – even though the government knows these are dangerous for students;
  8. Joining forces with Fred Nile to have an inquiry into school ethics classes after promising that they would be retained;
  9. Raising public transport fares above inflation at the same time lying about the impact of carbon pricing on public transport; and
  10. Introducing fees for public preschools.

Decent Work 2.0

by Frank Hoffer

Last month, Juan Somavia, the long serving Director-General of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) announced his departure in 2012.

As head of the ILO, he introduced the Decent Work Agenda in 1999 to re-focus the ILO and make it relevant for the 21st century. Twelve years later, the concept of ‘Decent Work’ is firmly established in the global debate and as an objective of national policy. It appears in many documents of the multilateral system, the G20 and national policy fora. It generates millions of Google hits. It is the subject of much academic research and debate. It is enshrined in several ILO Conventions and Declarations, and the international trade union movement introduced the annual Decent Work Day to campaign for workers’ rights. ‘Decent Work’ is so ubiquitous in ILO documents that some cynics say: “Decent Work is the answer, whatever the question!”

Will Decent Work survive the departure of the Director-General who coined the term and so successfully marketed it? Should it survive? The answer to the former question is one of the unknowns of “Realpolitik”. The answer to the latter depends on the assessment of what Decent Work means and how it should evolve.

Read more ...

Innovation for the Public Good: Developing a Plan to Change Agency Culture

by Jitinder Kohli

Planning Is the Fifth and Final Ingredient to Promoting a Culture of Innovation in Government Agencies

As this series has shown, many public-sector agencies around the globe are working hard to create a culture of innovation. Leadership, finance, permeability, and incentives are all key ingredients to doing so. Today we cover the final ingredient: a plan to promote innovation.

Plans should start with a clear sense of where innovation is most needed in an agency’s work and how it will measure progress. They should explore needs across the system in a policy area, not just in the particular work of an agency (for example, by looking at schools or hospitals). And plans often need to combine strategies that develop specialized capacity for innovation with broader actions that change agencywide cultures.

Read more ...

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