Combined with today’s interest rate cut by the Reserve Bank of Australia, the suite of measures announced today by the Government should help ward off job losses and cushion the economy in the face of a worsening outlook, say unions.
All parts of the Australian community — business, unions, government and community groups — should work together to protect the jobs & incomes of working families in response to the Global Financial Crisis, said ACTU Secretary Jeff Lawrence.
The ACTU reiterated its call for a Jobs Summit to examine further measures to protect the jobs and incomes of working families.
“There is widespread concern among working Australians about the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) and its effect on the local economy.
“Unfortunately we are now starting to see the impacts of the downturn with workers’ jobs under threat, particularly in the mining and automotive sectors. Many casual and part time workers are also having their hours of work reduced or jobs cut.
“There is also a general increase in stress among workers about the possible impact of the crisis on their jobs and the incomes of their families.
“If the worst happens and they lose their jobs, many workers are not confident about being able to get an alternative job and are worried about meeting the costs of living for their family, including payments on their home loans.
“Workers are looking to Government to work together with business and unions to address the economic crisis and protect their jobs and livelihoods.
“In the current environment the role of unions is crucial to safeguarding jobs. I urge any worker faced with losing their job or worried about their pay and conditions or rights at work to get in touch with their union. All workers, including non-members can phone the Unions Australia helpline for free advice – ph 1300 4 UNION.
“Workers are happy with the Federal Government’s handling of the economic crisis so far but want the Government to do more to encourage employers to retain staff.
“We need to see policies that deter employers from laying off workers. It’s not good enough to give new tax breaks or taxpayer support to business with no strings attached.
“Too many employers are more concerned about their profits and the interests of their shareholders instead of being concerned about their employees. Some employers are too quick to sack people at the first sign of economic trouble and others are using the global crisis as an excuse to cut pay or reduce the rights of their workers.
“Employers should do everything they can to keep their staff. They will be rewarded with increased loyalty and better productivity if they do,” said Mr Lawrence.
Comprehensive package welcome
The Government has looked at all sections of the community in this comprehensive package, said Mr Lawrence.
“This will provide further short-term relief for working Australians feeling pressure to meet their living costs and help sustain demand in the economy,” Mr Lawrence said.
“And the Government rightly has its eye on the longer-term, with billions of dollars of much-needed investment planned in schools, housing, and infrastructure.
“This investment will help redress the infrastructure deficit left by the former Liberal and National Party Government.
“Crucially, the package also tackles climate change and is a clear recognition that Green Jobs will play a key part in leading Australia into the economic recovery.
“Australia has a huge opportunity to become a world leader in clean and green industries in areas such as renewable energy, waste recycling, and sustainable water industries,” Mr Lawrence said.
“Unions now call on employers to respond to this package by focussing all their efforts on retaining jobs. The slowing economy had increased the urgency for new workplace laws to protect Australian workers from employers who will use the crisis to cut pay or reduce their rights at work.
“The Government also needs to put in place policies to assist employers to keep existing staff, including apprentices and to provide incentives to employers to retrain and upskill their staff so they are ready for the inevitable upturn in the economy.
“The Government should look to providing a guarantee of jobs training and case management for workers affected by the downturn, 100% protection of employee entitlements as well as increased support for the unemployed, including long-term unemployed young people.”
Mr Lawrence said as the downturn continued, further stimulus for the economy may be needed.
Banks must pass on full interest rate cut
Mr Lawrence said the major banks should immediately pass on in full today’s 1% rate cut to home buyers as well as credit card holders.
He said Australia’s banking system remained extremely robust, with the Commonwealth Bank reporting a $2 billion half-year profit.
“With profits like these, the big banks must repay the taxpayer support they have received and help working Australians during these tough times by doing everything they can to avoid foreclosing on home loans,” Mr Lawrence said.