New workplace laws must be passed without delay to protect Australian workers from businesses that will use the economic downturn to sack workers and cut conditions, unions say.

ACTU President Sharan Burrow welcomed the completion of a Parliamentary Inquiry into the Fair Work Bill, and urged the Senate to pass the new laws as soon as possible.

Ms Burrow said the new laws would restore workers’ rights and give them stronger legal protection in tough economic conditions.

“As the economy worsens, more and more working Australians are going to need the rights and protections these laws will provide,” Ms Burrow said.

“This week we have seen some of Australia’s biggest businesses behave appallingly towards workers who have stayed loyal to them for many years.

“These companies made fortunes during the long boom and paid themselves huge bonuses and dividends.

“Now at the first sign of the hard times they are sacking the workers who helped deliver profits in the good times. 

“We saw how many businesses took advantage of the Liberals’ unfair WorkChoices IR laws and ruined the lives of workers and their families in a period of prosperity.

“Imagine the damage that will be caused to working Australians if the laws are not changed.

“Today’s dissenting report by Coalition Senators confirms that that the Liberals are lining up again to do the bidding of big business and oppose workers’ rights,” Ms Burrow said.

Unions will continue to seek improvements to the Bill, including the removal of limits on what workers and employers can bargain about and include in a workplace agreement.