Tighter business regulations and curbs on executive pay are essential to protect jobs in the economic downturn, say unions.

Corporate Australia needs to exercise more restraint and put the jobs and livelihoods of working Australians first, said ACTU President Sharan Burrow.

“The selfish and greedy behaviour we have seen in the business community in recent years is now causing untold damage to the lives of working Australians and their families.

“Executive salaries and bonuses have been out-of-control and it’s totally unacceptable that these companies are now sacking workers,” Ms Burrow said.

“Working Australians are outraged at the pay packages awarded to executives and directors at companies like Telstra, ANZ, Pacific Brands and BHP, who have all made thousands of workers jobless in recent weeks.

“Moves to curb excessive bonuses and remuneration are overdue and more needs to be done to break the link between executive pay and short-term investment decisions.

“Executives, directors and shareholders should be obliged to consider the long-term interests of the company and its workers, rather than chase rewards that put at risk the viability of a business.

“There is nothing more insulting to workers than to see an executive rewarded for poor performance with a multi-million golden handshake when they leave a company.

“One of the main reasons for the global financial crisis has been the self-serving link between greed of high paid executives who received big bonuses and made risky investment decisions.

“We need more transparency and regulation of all companies, and to give shareholders more power to reject excessive pay rises, bonuses and remuneration packages, as well as termination payments.

“Companies that pay their executives salaries of more than $1 million should also be subject to a 30% penalty tax, which would give them a powerful incentive to rein in excessive remuneration.

“It is vital that the Government attaches strict conditions to any taxpayer support businesses receive, including curbs on executive pay, greater financial accountability, and obligations to protect jobs and workers’ rights.”