New laws and tougher regulations are needed to educate and encourage Australian businesses to deal with climate change and win a share of the potential one million clean energy jobs, unions say.

The ACTU is calling on federal politicians to vote for an emissions trading scheme and implement renewable energy targets, saying both initiatives would be a major boost to employment.

Speaking after a Jobs Summit in Sydney, ACTU President Sharan Burrow also called for tougher regulations on employers to provide workers with redundancy pay when they are laid off and to protect workers’ entitlements.

“If the politicians pass the carbon pollution reduction scheme and the renewable energy target then we can get on with creating the one million jobs in the clean energy economy that we know are possible,” Ms Burrow said.

“It is very worrying that a new survey shows such a high level of ignorance of the climate change issue among employers.

“Instead of complaining about extra red tape, employers should be supporting action on climate change and positioning themselves to get a share of the jobs that are set to eventuate in the global market in new clean energy technologies, products and services.

Ms Burrow also urged more action to protect Australian jobs in the downturn and rejected the Liberals’ push to clawback economic stimulus funding.

“We know that investment in jobs works. The Government’s stimulus and infrastructure spend to date has arrested what could have been a much worse situation.

“Further action to create more jobs as well as tougher regulation of business and greater protection of worker entitlements, including improved access to redundancy pay is required.

The ACTU also is suggesting company directors face penalties if firms go bust without sufficient provision for their employees.

Ms Burrow said 5,000 workers each week were forecast to lose their jobs over the next twelve months and it would take them longer than usual to get a new job.

“The figure today that is most heartbreaking is the growing length of time that people are out of a job.

“At the beginning of January 2009 it took six months (26 weeks) to find another job on average – that’s already pretty tough,” she said.

“But now the average length of time out of work is more than eight months (33 weeks) and growing rapidly,” Ms Burrow said.