ACCORD VIII AGREEMENT 1995-1999 SUSTAINING GROWTH, LOW INFLATION AND FAIRNESS This Accord reflects the commitment of the Government and the ACTU to a productive, fair and just Australia. It consolidates and builds on the approach set in place under Accord VII and will provide continuity, certainty and the impetus for co-operative industrial relations and workplace reform. The achievement of a sustainable reduction in unemployment with continued low inflation are central objectives. The Accord supports and strengthens the Governments’ Budget strategy. It recognises the need to address retirement income imperatives and the national savings shortfall. This has been achieved with sensitivity to the needs of the economically and socially disadvantaged. Further developing the arrangements agreed to under Accord VII, including the focus on enterprise bargaining based on an effective award safety net, this Accord will operate until March 1999. 1 EMPLOYMENT GROWTH AND JOBS TARGET 1.1 The Accord partners reaffirm their continuing commitment to - the creation of jobs and the sustained reduction in unemployment, and long-term unemployment in particular. Accord VII had as a goal the net increase of a minimum of 500,000 jobs over the life of the current Parliamentary term. The extraordinary strength of the recovery, the efficacy of labour market programs and the responsible role played by workers and their unions has surpassed this target after only two years. 1.2 In May 1994 the Government released Working Nation, with one of its major contributions being the Job Compact. The Job Compact means that all people unemployed for 18 months will be offered a job by 1998. This will work through a range of wage subsidy, community employment and training initiatives, implemented in the context individual case management. 1.3 The union movement endorses the Governments’ promise in this area and the strategies it has put in place. It will facilitate the implementation of industrial relations and employment arrangements to give effect to the strategies. Individual unions will be encouraged to seek accreditation with the Employment Services Regulatory Authority so they can assume case management responsibilities, and to participate directly in labour market programs at both the community and national levels. 1.4 The Working Nation goal was an economy within reach of an unemployment rate of 5 per cent by 2000/01. The union movement also strongly endorses this goal. The Accord partners believe there is no single policy aim more important to the economic and social well-being of the country than such an unemployment reduction. 1.5 Consistent with this the parties, believe that 600,000 net additional jobs over the course of Accord VIII is an achievable minimum. The essential aim is to create in excess of 600,000 jobs from July 1995 to March 1999 in order that the 5 per cent unemployment rate goal by 2000/01 is achievable. So important is the jobs target to the social and economic well-being of Australia, that the union movement agrees that wage claims will be assessed against satisfactory progress being made on the employment goal. 2. INFLATION 2.1 The Accord partners remain fully committed to the maintenance of low inflation, regarding this as a desirable social outcome. The 1990s have seen a threshold change in inflation and inflationary expectations, which is essential for interest rates remaining at levels conducive to continuing healthy economic and employment growth. Great weight is given to the significance of this achievement and to the difficulties inherent in re-establishing a low inflationary environment once lost. 2.2 The union movement and the Government are able to influence the level of unit labour costs and price inflation, although it is clear that there are many other contributing factors. This Accord is based on and consistent with maintaining an underlying rate of inflation of 2 to 3 per cent on average over the cycle. This will help to maintain our competitive position and the real income of workers. 2.3 This does not mean that when underlying inflation exceeds 3 per cent for a short time corrective action is always desirable. It does imply, however, that on-going inflation exceeding this level requires a policy response which targets the cause of the problem. 3. A FAIR AND EFFECTIVE INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS SYSTEM 3.1 The system has been progressively transformed with the direct parties - employers, workers and their unions - now taking increasing responsibility for their own industrial relations outcomes. The primary focus for setting wages and conditions is at the workplace and enterprise levels. Critical to this fundamental shift is the maintenance of a comprehensive framework of minimum standards provided by towards and legislated protections implemented by Industrial Tribunals. 3.2 Under the Accord, industrial relations has and will continue to play its part in delivering key economic, industrial and social objectives. The framework it provides, including key union commitments on employment and inflation, enables the ongoing delivery of appropriate overall outcomes consistent with wider economic goals and imperatives. This is particularly important in a decentralised wage environment. 3.3 The Accord parties are committed to the continued devolution of responsibility for wages and conditions determination through collective bargaining, while maintaining an equitable system which provides protection for vulnerable workers. They strongly support the continued extension of workplace bargaining underpinned by an effective award safety net. The parties view collective arrangements as the most fair and efficient approach - as distinct from other systems aimed at denuding the bargaining capacity of workers and which fail in developing a co-operative and productive culture. 3.4 The benefits of such a co-operative and fair approach are clear. Over 4,500 agreements have been formalised by the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC) covering around 60 per cent of federal award workers. They are delivering improvements in productivity and efficiency and shared benefits with workers. They have been reached with minimal disputation. Disputes continue to be at historically low levels. In the first twelve months since the new legislative arrangements, the number of working days lost through disputes was about 10 per cent lower than for the previous twelve months, while disputes over the life of the Accord have been 66 per cent lower than during the term of the previous Coalition Government. 3.5 Progress under the federal arrangements is vastly superior to that in most of the States. The federal experience amply demonstrates that providing proper protections and a bargaining framework does not hinder, but actually supports, co-operative bargaining and mutually beneficial industrial relations outcomes. The legislative reforms underpinning the federal arrangements are working effectively. While minor technical changes to improve the operation of the legislation will be considered as and when necessary, no need is seen for major policy changes. 3.6 An important innovation in the Industrial Relations Reform Act is access to relief for all workers in circumstances of unlawful termination. The Government and the ACTU are committed to its maintenance and continued preservation, and see the improvements in worker protection in this area as a fundamental right for all workers. Notwithstanding this, the parties recognise that the unfair dismissal laws have not worked as flexibly as intended. In order to maintain both the value of these reforms and public confidence in the provisions, the parties are committed to making immediate legislative changes. 3.7 The changes will make the handling of unfair dismissals simpler, more effective and less legalistic by requiring that all applications commence in the AIRC rather than the Court. The option of voluntary arbitration of claims by AIRC if the parties prefer will be provided. Amendments will also be framed to allow the State systems to operate where they provide an adequate alternative remedy which genuinely conforms to ILO Convention 158, and hence preserves employee protection. Finally, the Industrial Relations Court will be required to consider all the circumstances of the case in deciding whether a dismissal is justified and what remedy should be given if it is not. 3.8 The Government recognises the value of these changes, which should put to rest any reasonable expression of concern from employers and State governments. The Government will continue to support this important area and will not accept any erosion of these protections. 4. WORKPLACE BARGAINING 4.1 The Accord parties are strongly committed to the extension of enterprise bargaining. The ACTU will support workers through their unions in negotiations to improve the effectiveness, efficiency, productivity and competitiveness of workplaces. 4.2 The Government and the ACTU will promote and facilitate workplace bargaining as the primary means for delivering outcomes which maintain and improve living standards, consistent with sustainable economic growth and with maintaining a low inflation rate. 4.3 To meet these objectives, agreements reached at the enterprise and workplace levels should: focus on improving productive performance and efficiency, dealing with workplace reform, through a broad agenda for change that reflects the needs and circumstances of particular enterprises and workplaces and their employees. This does not preclude the bargaining process being initiated by the use of standard claims which are then progressed in a manner sensitive to the circumstances of individual enterprises; contain responsible outcomes, consistent with low inflation objectives and with any increases not linked to productive performance and efficiency being limited; be longer-term and closed (ie, they exclude wage increases other than those specified or provided for in the agreement for its duration), with clear and comprehensive no extra claims commitments; and take into account the interests of all employees and be based on effective collective negotiation and consultation. 4.4 As part of this Accord, unions are committed to support the inclusion of these features in enterprise agreements and to frame their approaches accordingly. As contemplated by the AIRC's September 1994 Safety Net Adjustment and Review decision, the parties are committed to there being no double counting; arbitrated safety net increases will not apply to employees who have received at least equivalent wage increases through workplace bargaining. 4.5 Parties at the industry/sector level may also establish framework agreements to facilitate concerted approaches to workplace reform and enterprise bargaining. Industry consultative councils may provide an appropriate forum for dealing with such issues in certain sectors. 4.6 Equality of access to workers and their unions in different industries is an essential feature of the wages system. Whilst recognising that bargaining outcomes may vary across industries and workplaces, the same basic opportunities and constraints must apply to all sections of the workforce. 4.7 The system is one of improvements beyond the award safety net generally being achieved through agreements at the enterprise and workplace levels. The AIRC has a vital role to play in encouraging and assisting the parties to reach agreements, including the use of good faith bargaining orders. The parties support the Commission being involved and actively facilitating agreements in industries and workplaces where the development and implementation of workplace bargaining has been slow. But the parties have the principal responsibility to reach agreements that best suit their interests. All parties need to take a responsible approach and be prepared to bargain collectively, constructively and genuinely to this end. 4.8 all and The Accord parties support the pursuit of enterprise bargaining across sectors (public and private) and by parties covered by both minimum rates paid rates awards. 4.9 In this context, the parties recognise the significant progress made in advancing new, more decentralised wage arrangements in the Australian Public Service (APS). These have seen major benefits for both employees and for improved productivity and flexibility in APS agencies. They remain committed to achieving further reforms, including through the foreshadowed implementation of a new Public Service Act. Accordingly, the parties will consult closely on the new legislative arrangements and associated award provisions. Further, the aim is to settle a new APS wage agreement in the near future that advances productivity and efficiency through changes both at the agency level and for the service as a whole. 4.1 0 While the emphasis is on achieving agreements, the wage system must also have the capacity to provide equitable outcomes for particular groups who are, in the main, in public sector community services occupations (including for example health and education workers), and have been traditionally covered by paid rates awards. 4.11 The Accord parties support the capacity for such groups, where all efforts to reach an agreement are exhausted, to have any unresolved matters to be determined by the Commission on a Special Case basis. Such an approach allows for the special and isolated circumstances of each particular case to be considered, together with the factors identified in the current Wage Principles. The special nature of such cases will be reflected in union commitments not to seek the flow-on of any increases granted through this mechanism. 4.12 Specifically in relation to nurses and teachers, the Accord parties are satisfied that all reasonable efforts to reach agreements have been exhausted. Accordingly they support the AIRC proceeding to determine expeditiously these matters. It is the intention of the Government, subject to the satisfactory outcome of further discussions with the ACTU and the relevant unions, to support the unions' applications. The Accord parties recognise that this support shall be consistent with the Government's overall economic strategy. 5. AWARD SAFETY NET 5.1 The maintenance of a secure and relevant award safety net of wages and conditions is central to the Accord, the bargaining process and to the operation of an equitable and effective wage system. 5.2 The Accord parties are committed to maintaining the role of Industrial Tribunals in preserving the award system, establishing safety net provisions, test case standards, and assisting in dispute settlement. Unions will continue to play their special role as parties principal to award instruments in the upkeep and effective application of the safety net award system. 5.3 The award system will continue to: provide the safety net underpinning workplace bargaining; protect workers who have been unable to access benefits through workplace negotiations, while maintaining an incentive to bargain; and meet the needs of particular industries and enterprises, while ensuring workers' interests are taken into account. 5.4 The safety net has been strengthened and broadened by the Government through the minimum entitlements provisions in the legislation, extending protection to all workers in the areas of minimum wages, equal remuneration for work of equal value, termination of employment and unpaid parental leave. 5.5 The ACTU will mount a case early in the life of this Accord based on the Equal Remuneration for Work of Equal Value provisions of the 1993 Industrial Relations Reform Act. The Government and the ACTU strongly support the use of these provisions to eliminate instances of discrimination in pay. 5.6 Paid rates awards will continue to be available where the award meets the need of the industry or enterprise concerned, satisfies the wishes of the workers and is consistent with custom and practice within the industry. Any variations to paid rates awards would be based on application of the AIRC's Principles. 5.7 As part of the process of reaching a new agreement, paid rates parties may agree on incorporating elements of expired enterprise agreements into their award. Where all parties to the award consent as part of such a process, this option should be available without requiring the current special case procedures. The Accord parties will support the establishment by the AIRC of an appropriate mechanism to allow this to occur. 5.8 The Accord partners are opposed to any actions which seek to undermine: the efficiency and effectiveness of award protection; collective bargaining; the no disadvantage test; and the role of unions. In such circumstances the Government will support the Commission taking action as is necessary to assure these vital worker protections. Safety Net adjustments 5.9 Safety net adjustments (SNAS) will continue to be available to workers on both minimum rates and paid rates awards who have been unable to access benefits through workplace bargaining. 5.10 lt is agreed that there should be four safetynet adjustments during the life of this Accord. 5.11 The first will be the third SNA of$8 perweek agreed in Accord VII and accessible under the AIRC's current Wage Principles at the enterprise level from September 1995 and by award variation from March 1996. The Accord parties will support confirmation of this amount in the AIRC hearings foreshadowed for August this year. 5.12 The Accord parties will support an approach to the AIRC to deliver three further annual adjustments of $9 to $12 per week available at the award level. 5.13 For low paid workers, particularly those on award rates, this range will be $11 to $14 per week. This provides an element of redistributive support from the growth the economy is enjoying. 5.14 The Accord parties have determined their support for the SNA range based upon a broad consideration of economic and social issues. These include: the Accord's inflation target; being fair in the context of providing an adequate safety net; having regard to the level of and any change in the social wage including the maternity leave payment; being consistent with the provision of an effective framework for the promotion of enterprise bargaining; protecting those denied access to the bargaining process through effective arbitrated minimum increases; being consistent with the employment target; taking into account cyclically adjusted trend movements in labour productivity; and having particular regard to the likely effect on Australia's traded goods sector. The Accord parties believe that in setting and applying the SNA range, the AIRC should have regard to these and any other considerations that it determines to be relevant. 5.15 Any arbitrated adjustments will be consistent with the central objective of this Accord - to promote sustainable economic growth and substantially reduce unemployment while maintaining a low rate of inflation. 5.16 The framework for the implementation of all arbitrated safety net adjustments contemplated by this Accord will be consistent with the Principles determined by the AIRC in the September 1994 Safety Net Adjustment and Review decision. The parties agree that the requirements to access workplace based safety net increases should not be construed in an onerous or restrictive manner. 5.17 The Accord partners will ask the AIRC to convene a conference, and subsequently a hearing, of all national wage case parties at least four months prior to the expiry of the existing Statement of Principles on 1 July 1996. At this conference it will be jointly proposed that there should be consideration of all matters relevant to the application of the Commission's Statement of Principles, including the appropriate implementation of the proposed SNAS. 5.18 The Government considers that all workers should be provided with prompt access to all safety net adjustments. Accordingly where workers are being denied such access the Government will intervene in proceedings before the AIRC and State tribunals and support such a right. 5.19 In particular with respect to the above, the actions of some conservative State governments in delaying these increases for their own employees is both deplorable and exploitative. The Government, together with the ACTU, shall urge the AIRC during its August Review hearings to put in place procedures that provide for prompt access to awards and SNAs for workers currently being denied these entitlements. The Accord parties will urge the AIRC to move with all reasonable haste to create such protections and reject efforts by State Governments to unduly prolong these proceedings. Award Reviews 5.20 The Accord parties agree that the simplification of awards is an important part of an effective and enforceable award framework. An aim is to make awards more understandable and user friendly for all those who use them. The overall approach of award simplification will be pursued in a constructive and agreed manner. 5.21 Awards will continue as the instrument containing safety net protections appropriate to the industry concerned. The simplification process must not involve any diminution in workers' wages or other entitlements hence all award entitlements will form the benchmark for the purposes of the no disadvantage test under enterprise bargaining. The Accord parties reject attempts by employers supported by the Coalition to strip back the award system to render the safety net insufficiently protective of workers pay and conditions. The parties agree that the legislative minimum entitlements contained in the Industrial Relations Act should not operate so as to exclude or diminish existing award provisions. 5.22 The s.150A award review process provides the opportunity for making the award safety net more effective and understandable, for removing any discriminatory provisions, and making awards more useful and relevant at the enterprise and workplace level. 5.23 The ACTU and affiliated unions are committed to participate in award reviews and to work to improve the relevance, usefulness and understandability of awards and the simplification of their application. 5.24 In the context of appropriate protection being provided, the parties see great benefit in the use of facilitative provisions as one means to make awards more relevant and suited to the needs of individual enterprises and workplaces. 5.25 It is agreed that this process is clearly not about providing scope for opting out of award or agreement obligations as sought by some employers, or for bypassing unions to bring about corrosive award changes. 5.26 The Accord parties are agreed that the integrity of the award system must be preserved - so that it continues to act as an effective safety net under a viable decentralised system. In this context, they support the establishment by the AIRC by early 1997 of a framework for reviewing the award safety net. The review should determine whether and to what extent award rates should be adjusted to effectively underpin the bargaining process. Such a review would comprehend the position of both minimum rates and paid rates awards. The parties are agreed that the review process should deliver a minimal aggregate wage outcome and any wage increases should be targeted towards the lower paid. 6. SUPERANNUATION 6.1 Under the Accord, occupational superannuation has moved from being a benefit enjoyed by a privileged few to being a central plank in providing all Australians with a better retirement income, and increasing national savings. 6.2 The Governments’ Superannuation Guarantee legislation made provision for the phased implementation of a minimum employer-funded superannuation contribution for all employees. The further initiatives announced in the recent Budget will facilitate the introduction of employee contributions. These measures will mean a significant improvement in retirement incomes for workers - lifting the superannuation savings of a worker around average earnings to a minimum of 15 per cent of their wage, and up to 19 per cent for very low earners. 6.3 There are other benefits to Australia from the superannuation changes. It is understood that to maintain healthy growth in production and employment, Australia's businesses need additional investment in up to-date plant and equipment for their enterprises. 6.4 The capacity of the Australian economy to support investment growth is enhanced through the existence of an increased flow of domestic savings generated by superannuation and from a decreased reliance on the international financial community and foreign debt. 6.5 Consistent with the Budget Statement, the Accord parties support the phased introduction through industrial agreements and awards, where benefits are improved, of a requirement for employees to contribute 3 per cent of their earnings to superannuation by the year 2000. In recognition of the need to improve the retirement savings for working people, and specifically the low paid, the Government will make means-tested superannuation contributions matched to those made by employees. 6.6 The Accord parties support an approach whereby the introduction of employee contributions through awards is timed to coincide with the Safety Net Adjustments. This is to avoid any decrease in employees' existing disposable incomes. 6.7 Under this plan, awards will require employee contributions of 1%, 2% and 3% from 1 July 1997, 1 July 1998 and 1 July 1999 respectively, with the matched Government contributions being provided on the same basis in the year following. 6.8 The introduction of total superannuation contemplated by these arrangements will be in accordance with the following table: SUPERANNUATION GUARANTEE Employer Contributions (%) Financial Year Payroll - up to $1 million Payroll - $1 million or more Employee Contrib Govt Contrib* Total 1992-93 1993-94 1994-95 1995-96 1995-96 1996-97 1997-98 1998-99 2000-01 2001-02 2002-03 3 3 4 5 6 6 7 7 8 8 9 4/5 5 5 6 6 6 7 7 8 8 9 1 2 3 3 3 3 1 2 3 3 3 3-4-5 3-5 4-5 5-6 6 7 10 12 14 14 15 Minimum Government Contribution capped at prescribed %age of AWOTE and phased out at twice AWOTE 6.9 The Government has taken substantial steps and will continue the process of consolidation of superannuation funds in low balance accounts to ensure that these funds are not eroded by fees, in recognition of the special needs of casual, part-time and women workers. 7. A DYNAMIC LABOUR MARKET 7.1 The Accord partners are committed to the continuing development of a highly skilled, flexible, and adaptable workforce. They will support and facilitate: ongoing education and training reforms; the optimal use of award classification structures; and the achievement of related reforms under enterprise bargaining (eg, through training, skills development, flexible labour usage and a move from casual to more permanent/part-time arrangements). 7.2 The parties will support the effective introduction of reforms to Australia's system of vocational training. These reforms are intended to lead to: an expanded access to structured training; additional vocational training opportunities for lower skilled workers, women and those already in the workforce; qualifications which are competency-based and recognised nationally; and increased opportunities for vocational training during the final years of schooling. 7.3 The reform of youth and training wage arrangements is an important priority. To enhance skill formation for young people, the long-term unemployed and other entrants to the workforce, the parties are committed to the implementation of reforms to youth and training wages within the life of this Accord directed at: providing widespread access to the National Training Wage, and promoting its take up by employers and young people; complementing and facilitating the introduction of the Australian Vocational Training System; ensuring that trainees have improved access to the labour market; providing levels of training opportunities which will meet the targets agreed by the Commonwealth, State, and Territory Governments; and replacing age-based arrangements with wage structures which are based on competency and which are integrated with the skill-related career paths that have been established through award restructuring and which will promote skill formation for all workers in the transition from school to work. 7.4 The parties recognise the need to undertake these reforms in a way which ensures that any increase in the employment costs of young people does not reduce their competitiveness in the labour market. 7.5 Under Accord VII, a new system has been put in place for equitable wage setting arrangements to enhance the employment prospects of people with disabilities unable to access the open labour market, because of the effect of disability on their productive capacity. Awards are being varied to incorporate these new arrangements and the parties will encourage their application and usage. 8. TRADE AND INDUSTRY POLICY 8.1 The Government and the ACTU are committed to the further development of Australian manufacturing and service industries. -The Government's forthcoming Innovation Statement is the next step in this area in the promotion of the competitiveness and efficiency of Australian industry. 8.2 The Accord parties support a forward looking industry policy. It should seek to meet the needs of an Australia that is operating in the international market place, and include: arrangements to facilitate provision of world best infrastructure, importantly including the information superhighway; active encouragement of training and skilling to all workers to enable uptake of technology and practices that position Australian industries at the leading edge; promotion of an innovative culture to ensure continuous pursuit of competitiveness and to enhance future economic and jobs growth in the development of world leading "first practice"; further improvements in competitiveness; acknowledgment that worker empowerment is a cornerstone of a flexible and innovative enterprise; and greater international orientation. 8.3 The parties support a closer integration of trade and industry policies with the objective of achieving higher growth in high value added and elaborately transformed manufactured exports. 8.4 The Accord parties recognise that future growth and increased sophistication of the Australian economy depend on success in the above areas. 9. WORK AND FAMILY 9.1 The Government and the ACTU are strongly committed to assisting families and to encouraging work practices which enable workers to better balance their work and family life. 9.2 The Government will introduce a new means tested Maternity Allowance equal to six weeks of Parenting Allowance (currently $816) from 1 February 1996. The Government will review the Allowance during the life of this Accord with the aim of improving it as economic and budgetary circumstances permit, and consistent with the spirit of ILO Convention 103 (Maternity Protection) which identifies 12 weeks maternity leave paid through social security arrangements as an appropriate goal. 9.3 These new measures build on significant achievements already made under the Accord, including: parental and special family leave; legislative protection against discrimination; and the increase in opportunities for more flexible working patterns. A growing number of workplace agreements are including work and family measures, such as caress and other leave arrangements, innovative hours arrangements, and permanent part-time work. 9.4 The Accord partners have actively pursued the expansion of child care places. The number of places has increased more than five-fold since 1983, to 262,500 by March 1995. The Government reaffirms its commitment to meet the projected demand for work-related child care by 2001. 9.5 The Accord partners recognise the importance of the award safety net of wages and conditions in protecting the interests and providing security to families. The parties will work in conjunction with employers and the community to improve understanding about the needs of workers with family responsibilities, with a view to implementing industrial arrangements over time directed towards meeting those needs. They are committed to encouraging the co-operative development of measures which help workers better balance their family 'responsibilities through appropriate award provisions and enterprise bargaining. 9.6 The parties are committed to the expansion of family leave under the award system through the aggregation of existing personal/family leave entitlements, in a manner that does not reduce existing benefits. The parties will confer prior to the resumption of the Family Leave Test Case on the means of achieving more flexible family leave entitlements to be applied in a manner consistent with the Industrial Relations Act. 10. SOCIAL WAGE Public Expenditure 10.1 The Accord partners recognise the critical importance of the social wage - public expenditure that aims to enhance the living standards of Australians. In the context of economic changes affecting all Western nations, the social wage plays a key role in reducing real inequalities in living standards. The Accord partners therefore reject the conservative clamour for continuing cutbacks in Government expenditure. It is not possible to markedly reduce Government expenditure without cutting the social wage and thus the real living standards of the population, many of whom who would be in economic crisis without it. Social Infrastructure 10.2 The Accord partners have always recognised that, while wages are of great significance, living standards are determined by a myriad of factors. The quality of peoples' lives is influenced by: the availability of jobs; access to education and training; the affordability, quality and location of housing; support for unemployed people, older people, those with a disability, and families with children; access to child care and health facilities; and the availability of superannuation. The parties are committed to the maintenance of high quality standards for essential public services such as health, welfare, education and community services, and to having a continuing dialogue to achieve these goals. 10.3 Medicare has been highly successful in ensuring universally available health care, while restraining the growth of health expenditures as a share of GDP by international standards. The Accord partners reaffirm their pledge to a high quality medical system for all Australians and the maintenance of bulk-billing. The Accord partners will continue to support both the universalist principles that underpin Medicare and positive reforms to strengthen its effectiveness. 10.4 The Accord partners are committed to continuing support for families and to the implementation of policies that further ease the burden on low income families. The introduction of the Parenting Allowance in July 1995 will particularly benefit low income families where one parent stays at home to care for the children. Low income families living in private rental accommodation will also benefit from the $5 a fortnight increase in rent assistance from March 1996. The Guardian Allowance for sole parents will be increased by $4 a fortnight from September 1996. 10.5 The Accord partners support the expansion of educational opportunities. Commonwealth funding for vocational education and training will be increased by $70 million in 1997 and an additional 1 1,000 university places will be created from 1996 to 1998. 10.6 Education opportunities will continue to be financed through mechanisms that promote the full participation by students in all levels of education, regardless of their background. While it is agreed that the beneficiaries of higher education should eventually share with society part of the additional returns they receive, the partners reject conservative proposals for the introduction of undergraduate up-front fees, which would disadvantage students from low-income households. 10.7 The Government reaffirms its commitment to maintain the standard pension at at least 25 per cent of average weekly earnings. The Government shall similarly maintain the nexus between the standard pension and all other pensions. The Government will continue to provide the Mature Age Allowance for those people aged 60 and over who have been unemployed for 9 months or more. Those receiving the Mature Age Allowance will not have to meet the work test. 10.8 The Accord partners acknowledge that the health and well-being of people are significantly influenced by conditions in Australian cities and regions. Under the Commonwealth Governments’ Better Cities and Regional Economic Development programs, planning and investment strategies are being developed to improve the economic, social and environmental outcomes in cities and regions. 10.9 The programs will give special assistance to low status, low-income areas, so as to create better access to jobs, improved housing, infrastructure, and other opportunities. The additional $247 million in the Budget for the Better Cities program will be targeted to areas of high unemployment and high concentrations of public housing. Taxation 10.10 The Accord partners reaffirm their commitment to a progressively redistributive taxation system. The payment of the 1998 tax cuts as Government contributions to employee superannuation benefits is evidence of this orientation. 1 0. 11 Certain labour market practices involving the replacement of traditional common law employer/employee arrangements with labour or result-based contracts have been purported to be outside the scope of the pay-as-you earn (PAYE) revenue collection arrangements. The Government will be legislating to ensure the PAYE taxation provisions cover such payments. 10.12 In addition, the Government will be releasing a discussion paper on the use of corporate entities to remove income from the PAYE arrangements. The overall tax liability on that income is then reduced by the income being split with family members, or deferred by retaining any excess earning in the company. It is believed that there is substantial revenue at risk as a result of these practices, and the Government intends to introduce legislation to counter them following a period of consultation on the discussion paper. 11. WORKER PROTECTIONS Home Based Workers 11.1 The Accord partners recognise the special needs of home based workers. In accordance with the statement of co-operation between the Textile, Clothing and Footwear industry and union, the Accord partners believe that decisive steps need to be taken to tackle these practices. The parties will work towards ensuring that minimum standards apply to these workers. 11.2 The Accord partners will: review current award arrangements with a view to improving their effectiveness in protecting these workers; continue to implement measures to assist employers and outworkers understand their rights and obligations; work with industry to develop codes of practice between the union, retailers, suppliers and manufacturers which take into account the employment of outworkers; and support the ILO developing international labour standards aimed at improving protection of outworkers, in particular through the adoption of a convention on home work. 11.3 The Government will include strategies to improve the conditions of outworkers as an integral part of the TCF 2000 Development Package. 11.4 The Government shall investigate and employ all means including legislation, if necessary, to ensure the above objectives are met. Employer Insolvency 11.5 The Accord parties agree that the Government will examine and if practicable and desirable move to improve the protection of employees' entitlements in the event of the insolvency of their employer. Workers Compensation 11.6 The activities of conservative State governments in the area of workers compensation are viewed with considerable concern by the parties. Their policies reduce the entitlements of persons injured at work as a means of making workers' bear an excessive amount of the burden, thus shifting the costs onto the Social Security budget. 11.7 The injustices caused by these attacks are likely to be felt most by those least able to afford to carry this burden, namely those who have had their earning capacity impaired or destroyed. The parties believe that this abdication of responsibility for those injured at work by some State governments represents a threat to the nation's safety net which should provide dignity to the injured. 11.8 The Accord parties agree to explore and work towards developing a national system of minimum standards that responsibly provide to those injured as a result of work, the protection that should be taken for granted in a modem compassionate society. 11.9 During the life of this Accord the ACTU shall explore the means by which benefits at least equal to those under the Comcare scheme can be extended to private sector employers.