Speed up IR laws to stop job losses: unions

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Speed up IR laws to stop job losses: unions

The ACTU wants Labor’s IR laws brought in early to protect workers from losing their jobs in the coming economic slowdown.

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The ACTU wants Labor’s IR laws brought in early to protect workers from losing their jobs in the coming economic slowdown.

ACTU secretary Jeff Lawrence said this week the Government must act quickly to protect workers as employer groups say employment is under pressure.

Lawrence warned that around one million workers are vulnerable because they are in casual jobs and could be sacked easily.

Drastic downturn in forward orders

The CFMEU has warned that jobs in the logging industry are under threat because of a ‘drastic’ downturn in forward orders.

CFMEU forestry division secretary Michael O’Connor said the job loss from the economic crisis could be the biggest in a generation and he urged Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to hold a national summit meeting with employers and unions to look at protecting jobs.

Labor’s new workplace relations laws are expected to be tabled in Parliament later this month or early December.

However, most of them are not due to come into operation until 1 January 2010. The exceptions (so far) are collective bargaining and unfair dismissals, which will come in midway through next year — though the details of how they will operate in isolation are not yet clear.

WorkChoices prevails

Until then the prevailing legislation — except for [new] AWAs — is the WorkChoices laws brought in by the Howard Government.

‘The longer WorkChoices stays in place, the greater the pain for people who are in precarious employment or who are employed under WorkChoices-style agreements that stripped away basic rights,’ Lawrence told The Australian.

‘Australian workers are in a WorkChoices twilight zone, waiting for the new laws to restore their rights.’

‘Employers abusing position’

Lawrence said some employers were already abusing their position by denying collective bargaining rights. Telstra, Rio Tinto and Cochlear are three companies resolutely refusing to make union collective agreements with their employees.

Lawrence said a fair IR system would promote economic stability by growing workforce skills and driving productivity.

‘Without a strong industrial umpire it's hard for employees to bring a claim for unfair dismissal, even when they are treated badly, and they need to be able to do this during times of economic uncertainty,’ Lawrence said.

‘More than three million employees in small- and medium-sized businesses lost their right to redundancy pay and protection from unfair dismissal under WorkChoices and they need protection urgently.’

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