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News News Earners on $100k 'still need an award'
THE union at the forefront of negotiating common law contracts has warned that removing award coverage for workers earning more than $100,000 could undermine efforts to get young people into the skilled workforce. The Association of Professional Engineers, Scientist and Managers Australia says Kevin Rudd's declaration that people on six-figure salaries can look after themselves is counter-productive.

APESMA executive director of industrial relations Geoff Fary said he did not believe the policy had been thought through and that the award was still important for workers on higher salaries.

Those employees rarely referred to the award for determinations on overtime or meal allowances, but rather for guidance on career structures and skills.

So young workers might start on less than $100,000 but would then look to the award to lay out what they might achieve.

"If that is removed that is going to be a further disadvantage to young people, in particular (those) entering professions like science and engineering," he said.

"And they are the very professions that there is currently a critical shortage of people in.

"The award actually sets down a progressive career salary scale, based on the experience, the skills and the responsibilities they require and expect to progress through their working life."

Under Labor's IR implementation plan, workers earning more than $100,000 who choose to negotiate a common law contract are subject to only 10 legislated minimum standards.

This means their contract conditions must not undercut those 10 conditions. For those earning under $100,000 under the new plan, a contract must not undercut the multitude of clauses in the relevant industry award.

If a higher-paid worker was not on a common law contract, the award would still apply.

But unions fear the new policy will make the award less relevant for those workers.

Mr Fary, a former Labor ministerial chief of staff who is in the running to become assistant secretary of the ACTU, said the ALP policy was fairer than Work Choices, and the 10 minimum standards were better than the Coalition's five. But he said he was worried Labor had been spooked by an aggressive campaign from business.

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