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News News Backpackers hired to apply fariness test keep low profile
Most of the temporary workers hired by the Workplace Authority to plough through a backlog of nearly 100,000 workplace agreements were keeping a low profile this morning.

The contract workers are being taken by bus each day from central Sydney to temporary premises in Ryde.

One man confidently said that AWA - the acronym for Australian Workplace Agreement - actually stood for "Workplace Arrangement Authority".

He said he had received "about a week or so" of training.

"We do the fairness test for the workplace authority," he said. "With the employers we do all the tests now."

The man said that backpackers featured among the workers at the authority.

Another woman said she had received about two weeks of training.

"We are doing the AWA fairness testing to check about the fair salary or rate. At the same time we need to understand [workplace] agreements."

Most of the other 20-odd workers rushed past assembled media and onto the bus.

It is understood that the bus will leave Ryde at about 4.30pm to drop the workers back in the city.

Backlog of 100,000 workplace agreements

The Workplace Authority has hired 260 temporary workers to go through the backlog.

Labor's industrial relations spokeswoman, Julia Gillard, said the temps had been given just six days' training and there was no way they had the expertise to administer the test.

It is believed the temps are making preliminary checks on whether the agreements provide compensation in return for workers losing award conditions, such as holiday penalty rates and public holidays. Public servants make the final decision.

Ms Gillard said the use of temps showed the fairness test - announced by the Prime Minister in May to ease voter concerns about industrial relations changes - was a con and a joke.

The Workplace Relations Minister, Joe Hockey, said the temps were not deciding whether agreements passed the fairness test. This was done by "experienced workplace relations practitioners".

The Workplace Authority said last night it had recruited 260 contractors to assist with the application of the fairness test. Between 10 and 15 per cent were on working holiday visas.

The authority's director, Barbara Bennett, said: "All contractors recruited ... have received at least one week's formal training together with on-the-job training and support. In addition more individualised training is provided where needed.

"Importantly, decisions about whether or not an agreement passes the fairness test are not made by contractors."

But one of the temps has sent Labor an email saying that the permanent staff making the fairness test decisions would be basing their decisions on information that could be inaccurate because of inadequate training of the contract workers.

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