ACTU fighting lost cause on small business redundancy

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ACTU fighting lost cause on small business redundancy

The ACTU is demanding the Federal Government not buckle to the employer lobby over redundancy for workers in small businesses — but it seems they have already lost the battle.

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The ACTU is demanding the Federal Government not buckle to the employer lobby over redundancy for workers in small businesses – but it seems they have already lost the battle.
 
ACTU secretary Jeff Lawrence said today unions are concerned at signs employer groups are pushing the federal government to exempt small businesses from giving workers redundancy pay following the release last week of draft new industry awards.
 
Concerned at cost burden
 
However when draft awards were released, IR Minister Julia Gillard said she was concerned about the cost burden of redundancy on employers with fewer than 15 employers, and said she would make a submission to the AIRC on the issue. 
 
This is interpreted to mean she will urge the Commission to withdraw the redundancy provision. In any case the government has the power to legislate it out of existence. 
 
In a statement today Lawrence pointed out that redundancy pay for workers in small businesses was ‘an important workplace right that was snatched away by the Howard Government’s WorkChoices industrial relations laws’. 
 
He said there were about 2 million workers in small businesses of under 15 employees who would disadvantaged and have no entitlement to redundancy pay if the lobbying by employer groups was successful. 
Need redundancy to tide them over
 
‘Workers who lose their job can take many months to find other work and it essential they have redundancy pay to tide them over,’ Lawrence said.
 
‘It is important that this entitlement is restored, as is protection from unfair dismissal, in a post-WorkChoices industrial relations system.’
 
Employees in small businesses first won access to redundancy pay in the mid-1980s, and it was extended to all small businesses after a test case run by the ACTU in 2004.
 
Lawrence said unions welcomed most elements of the priority draft awards but remain concerned in some areas.
 
‘The modern award system should aim to create a fair safety net for the wages and conditions of all workers,’ he said.
 
Positive sign
 
‘It is a positive sign that the proposed awards would provide an effective mechanism for the settlement of workplace disputes by an independent umpire.'
 
‘It’s also commendable that the commission has recognised that employee consultation is a key part of the modern workplace.'
 
Reduced conditions
 
‘However, we do note that the drafts do, in certain areas, result in a reduction of conditions. The bottom line must be that workers are not worse off under the modern awards.’
 
Lawrence said one area that unions will examine is the loading for casual workers.
 
‘It is important that any deficiencies in the draft awards are rectified and employees are not disadvantaged,’ he said.
 
 
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