Almost half the Australian workforce – up to five million employees working in small businesses – face the threat of being unfairly sacked for no reason under new laws the Howard Government is expected to introduce into Parliament when it resumes today.

ACTU President Sharan Burrow said today:

“No one should be sacked without a valid reason, but that is the threat that will face everyone who works in one of Australia’s small businesses.

Prime Minister John Howard has confirmed he will use his new Parliamentary majority to push though laws to exempt small business from making sure they act fairly when sacking employees.

This move is basically a licence for bullying and harassment in the workplace that will not create one extra job.

The Prime Minister and the Treasurer can cite no credible evidence in support of their recent claims that scrapping unfair dismissal requirements for small business will significantly reduce unemployment.

A Full Court of the Federal Court examined whether exempting small business would lead to the creation of 50,000 jobs and concluded that there exists no such link between unfair dismissal laws and employment.

Senator Andrew Murray of the Australian Democrats exposed the absurdity of the Government’s argument in a previous Senate Inquiry, finding that as many as 200 new jobs would need to be created for every single case of unfair dismissal by small businesses in some States.

The ACTU regards the Government’s unfair dismissal laws as an unwanted distraction from the real issues facing our economy – the national skills shortage and the casualisation of the workforce.

It is no wonder that for the past eight years the Senate has rejected this unnecessary and extreme aspect of the Government’s radical industrial relations agenda – being able to sack people for no reason is a throwback to the 1800s and the master-servant relationship!

The ACTU predicts that instances of bullying and harassment in workplaces will rise as a result of the new law.

With many people in Australia’s regional and rural areas working in small businesses, the National Party’s support for this law is a sell-out of their constituency.

This is the first real test for the National Party Senators in the new Parliament.

They should not support a law allowing employers to sack people for no reason and should break ranks with their Liberal Party colleagues.”