The Guardian 1 February, 2006

Employer advocate takes issue
with Howard’s WorkChoices

Unscrupulous bosses will use the Howard Government’s WorkChoices legislation to shaft workers at the bottom end of the skills table, according to an experienced employer advocate. Civil contractors’ representative, Doug Huett, has added his voice to community and union concerns about Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews’ legislation.

"Make no mistake, after 20 years as a senior industrial advocate representing employers, I can tell you categorically a lot of unscrupulous employers will take advantage of this new legislation", Huett warns in the Construction magazine.

"That’s the job — if you don’t like it, off you go", he predicts will be the employer attitude.

Huett, who has tangled regularly with unions, including the CFMEU, AMWU and AWU, as national executive director of the Civil Contractors’ Federation, took issue with key arguments underpinning WorkChoices.

He said unfair dismissal protections had gone from "the sublime to the ridiculous".

He criticised the old regime as "ridiculously stringent" but characterised its replacement as a simple case of "you’re sacked".

Huett also contested the Federal Government’s contention that minimum wages had been set by members of an "industrial relations club" who didn’t pay enough attention to hard economic evidence.

He described the volume of economic evidence at National Wage Case proceedings, before the AIRC (Australian Industrial Relations Commission), as "mind boggling".

"I seem to recall Howard saying that the new Commission [Fair Pay Commission] will be made up of highly qualified people more able to determine what is fair pay. Conversely, the AIRC which broadly comprises appointments from both the employer and employee sides of the ‘industrial relations club’ — solicitors, senior advocates, union officials, ACTU officers, all with vast industrial relations experience — and, therefore, not deemed to be able to set a minimum wage", he wrote.

Huett was national executive director of the Civil Contractors Federation from 1988-2002 and now works as a consultant to employers in the civil construction industry.

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