Low paid jobs, casual work and unpaid overtime are set to worsen under the Coalition’s industrial relations policy released today.

ACTU President Sharan Burrow said:

“The Coalition’s industrial relations policies are a simplistic and populist election stunt rather than a serious attempt to grapple with the problems facing Australia’s ten million strong workforce and the economic changes brought about by globalisation.

They offer no solution to one of the main problems facing the economy – that of the creation of a two tiered job market with a proliferation of low paid, casual and insecure employees at the bottom end and well-paid but overworked people at the top end.

· Casuals: The Coalition’s policies offer no strategies to curb the growing use of casual work. There are now more than 2.2 million Australians working casually with one in every two new full time jobs created since 1996 being casual.

· Low pay: The Coalition continues to oppose a fair deal for low paid employees with its push towards individual agreements (AWAs). The fact is that half of all employees – around 4.1 million working Australians – currently earn less than $650 a week ($33,700) and the workforce grew by just over 400,000 new jobs from 2000 to 2003 but nearly two thirds (64.8%) of these new jobs pay less than $600 a week. Low paid workers have very little individual bargaining power and rely on a strong award safety net which unions and the Labor party support.

· Underemployment: The Coalition is also silent on the growing problem of underemployment. Part time jobs have grown by almost a third (32.5%) in the last eight years – outstripping full time jobs growth (10%) by more than three to one. More than 600,000 part time workers (23%) want more hours of work.

· Work till you drop: A strong economy with high productivity is of little use if it does not lead to improvements in people’s lives and yet the Coalition offers no solutions offered to the problem of increasing numbers of people missing out on a decent family life. Almost a million Australians now work unpaid overtime – an increase of 24% since 1996.

The economy is strong because ten million Australians are working very hard.

They deserve a fair go with an industrial relations system that has a strong and independent umpire – not a watered down body subject to government interference.

Australians expect that all employees, including those in small business, should have access to basic entitlements such as decent health and safety standards, fair pay, annual leave and sick leave, as well as redundancy pay if they are unfortunate enough to lose their job.

A decent award safety net and a strong and fair independent umpire are the key to this.”