The Federal Coalition’s industrial relations policy announced today was an attack on the job security and employment rights of working people and failed to protect their accrued entitlements, the ACTU said.

ACTU President Sharan Burrow said the announcement by John Howard confirmed that his employee entitlements scheme would short change sacked workers, often by tens of thousands of dollars each.

“Mr Howard has already forced lower wages onto workers with individual contracts. Now he wants to make it easier to sack them without their full entitlements,” Ms Burrow said.

“Mr Howard’s so-called fair dismissal laws would make it easier to sack people without regard to their basic rights, further undermining the job security and income security of working families.

“Mr Howard’s proposed changes to union voting rules and trade practices laws are recycled, old policies that Parliament has already rejected because they are extremist and unnecessary,” Ms Burrow said.

Independent analysis showed that Mr Howard’s individual contracts (AWAs) provided the lowest annual pay rises of any type of wage agreement, averaging 2.4% compared to 3.9% for union agreements. (Source: Agreements Database and Monitor Report, June 2001, Australian Centre for Industrial Relations Research and Training, University of Sydney).

ACTU research on households where the principal source of income is wages had shown 285,000 households could not afford an annual holiday, 166,500 could not pay utility bills and 116,000 could not afford new clothes (Source: ABS, HES, 2000).

“Mr Howard’s workplace policy would make life even harder for low-paid Australians and the growing number of working families living in poverty. Working people need a Federal Government that’s going to improve their job security, guarantee 100% of their entitlements and protect their basic rights at work,” Ms Burrow said.