HON ADELE FARINA (South West) [11.44 am] — without notice: I move —
That the Legislative Council of Western Australia calls on Alcoa to reconsider its actions to cancel the current EBA with the Australian Workers’ Union, which will result in AWU workers having their pay cut by 52 per cent.
[Speeches and comments from various members]
HON ALISON XAMON (North Metropolitan) [12.30 pm]: I rise on behalf of the Greens to indicate our full support for the motion as presented by Hon Adele Farina and to thank her for bringing such an important motion to the attention of this chamber. It is a very timely one because, as has already been said by a number of speakers, a lot of workers and their families are being directly affected by this dispute right now. I have no doubt that they are hurting and will be hurting even more unless this is resolved.
As has already been said, the whole nature of this dispute in the first place has not really been about the wages. It has been about the issue of job security. It arose primarily because of the proposed loss of employment clauses within the enterprise bargaining agreement. This is really about a desperate desire to preserve jobs. There is a reason for that. As has already been articulated, when people are working under precarious employment, it is extraordinarily detrimental to not only those families, but also the affected communities. It impacts on families very directly and their capacity to plan for the future and get mortgages and feel confident that they can provide for their children going into the future. We know that casual employees are less likely to gain access to training, for example. It also impacts on superannuation and it puts people in a position in which they need to potentially work from week to week. It is simply no way to exist in the long term. It is appalling that Alcoa, with all its money and power, is abusing the very, very broken enterprise bargaining agreement process to try to force workers into this position.
Continuity of employment matters. People living in these communities need continuity of employment. This is about supporting local jobs over contractors. We should remember that this is what this dispute is about. However, it has now also become about a living wage. I want to put on the record, unequivocally, that there should be no bouquets going to Alcoa because, to quote the member opposite, it is paying double the award. No, no, no. It shows how irretrievably broken our award system has become under our federal industrial relations laws. That is what has happened. We no longer have an award system that remotely resembles what would be considered a reasonable baseline from which any worker is expected to live.
The whole erosion of our industrial relations laws, federally, started with the WorkChoices system. They are disgraceful, unjust and unfair laws. I am really sorry that when we finally got Fair Work—the Greens were very vocal about it at the time—we did not see the worst of those laws wound back. The Fair Work system is appalling and continues to advantage employers at the expense of employees over and again. The system is well and truly designed to assist the big end of town, and we are seeing the way that impacts on workers and what happens to them.
Let us be very clear. Alcoa is making a lot of money pulling out bauxite and alumina, and the community expects it to do the right thing by the workers and by those communities, but it is simply not doing that. I note the comments by Hon Kyle McGinn. We are talking about workers who have shown loyalty to that company for up to 42 years of their life. For them to be treated this way is absolutely disgraceful. We see this time and again: people commit their lives to a company and do the right thing, only to have the company act on a whim, take advantage of appalling, disgraceful and unjust laws and turn around and throw it back in their face. We have a broken federal industrial relations system. We need to change the rules. I really hope that if we see a change of federal government, a Labor government would not suddenly get all namby-pamby and decide not to go the whole hog. It would need to make sure that we are finally doing the right thing by workers. We have a very, very broken system.
My colleague Hon Tim Clifford is very familiar with the actions of Alcoa, having subcontracted to them at both Wagerup and Kwinana, so we have had some discussions about the practices. They are not particularly great, and Alcoa is showing that it is not a particularly good corporate citizen now. On behalf of the Greens, I offer my solidarity to those workers. I am really hoping that they get a just outcome to the dispute right now. From standing on many picket lines and speaking to many people who go through this process, I know that it is really, really tough. The uncertainty of what will happen in the future and the huge financial hit they are taking while they are on those picket lines are really tough. I certainly hope that those families are okay. I am calling on Alcoa to do the right thing. I absolutely support the motion in front of us. I am really hoping that we get some just resolution to this soon.
[Speeches and comments from various members]
Motion lapsed, pursuant to standing orders.