Workplace changes risk deprofessionalising IT

The proposed changes to Australia's workplace relations risk "deprofessionalising" IT, according to the Association of Professional Engineers, Scientists and Managers Australia (APESMA) in its submission to the Work Choices senate inquiry.

The changes will also hinder the development and modernization of the industry and cause far-reaching problems for workers, families, communities and enterprises, says the union's submission to the senate, which calls for a full public inquiry process into the amendments.

The submission states that the removal of skills-based classification structures in awards is of particular concern to the IT industry.

"Award skill-based classification structures promote the recognition of professional work, particularly in new and emerging professions, such as the Information Technology Industry Professional Engineers and Professional Employees awards," it said.

These awards initially met strong opposition by employers who questioned the "professional nature" of IT. Removing these awards now would risk deprofessionalising the IT workforce.

Executive officer of the Information Technology Professionals Association (ITPA), Greg Considine, said the changes will definitely make it harder for IT professionals to campaign for their already significantly eroded rights.

Considine said that IT workers have long been expected to work incredibly long hours and have not seen regular pay rises for some time.

"To some extent people have become institutionalized by IT companies' spin on things, such as 'We can't afford a pay rise and if we gave everyone a pay rise we'd have to retrench people', but in reality these IT companies are very profitable; it's just that the profits all go offshore to the parent company," he said

"The profits are inflated by the companies' reliance on not paying salary increases where they are due, not replacing people when they leave and sharing the remaining workload among diminished workforces."

Performance-based payment, which is very common in the IT industry, is also of concern to Considine.

"This model is presented as 'fair' but that is fictional, because pay budgets are determined in advance by the financial people. The reality is that there is no money in the budget to give an increase no matter how well the employees perform. The company just transfers the blame to the individual employee," he said.

"The government's changes are heading the industry even further down that path."

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