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News News WorkChoices hits women hard: study
Women in low-paid industries, such as retailing and aged care, have lost up to $100 a week in earnings since the introduction of the Work Choices legislation, a report on a nationwide study to be launched in Canberra today says.

The report, Women and WorkChoices, says that women who complained about underpayment were dismissed without reason.

It says one employer removed the chairs from the workplace, forcing the female assembly line staff to stand all day.

The Minister for Workplace Relations, Joe Hockey, dismissed a similar study in NSW, released 10 days ago, as a Labor Government stunt but this report had been commissioned in March last year by the Howard Government's Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission.

The commission withdrew from the project after the departure this year of the sex discrimination commissioner, Pru Goward, a long-time ally of the Prime Minister, to contest a state seat for the Liberal Party.

Several groups, including the National Foundation for Australian Women and the Women's Electoral Lobby, continued the research with the support of state governments.

Marie Coleman, from the National Foundation for Australian Women, said: "This is a national study which John Howard's own Government commissioned. It went through all the proper Government processes and they were satisfied with its rigour. Pru strongly backed the work."

The report says "an increased climate of fear" was found in many areas that traditionally have a majority of female employees, especially hospitality, aged and child care and call centres. The authors conclude: "Work Choices has created a climate where some employers feel licensed to act unilaterally and without consideration of workers and their rights.

"Work Choices has facilitated reductions in the income of study participants, ranging from the loss of $100 a week for some to the loss of penalty rates, loadings and allowances."

Most of 120 case studies involve women earning less than $20 an hour, and almost 85 per cent were in workplaces with less than 100 employees.

One woman, Debbie, a 55-year-old aged care worker from Canberra who was diagnosed with lung cancer, lost her job after her employer insisted she was "too sick to work".

Melanie, a 25-year-old child-care worker from NSW, was dismissed after telling her supervisor she was pregnant.

Ruby, a 33-year-old South Australian secretary and sole parent, was dismissed for refusing to move from part-time to full-time work.

One of the report's 25 recommendations is to enshrine in legislation the right to request work hours suitable for families.

"Few participants were able to negotiate their start and finish times," the report says. "Rather, many found themselves working very long shifts without breaks or short and unpredictable shifts."

 

 
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