A national summit of unions, business and governments should be held to plan an urgent stimulus package to grow and protect jobs and incomes during the economic slowdown, says the ACTU.

The summit would allow a range of innovative ideas to be put on the table to steer the economy through the fall-out from the Global Economic Crisis, said ACTU President Sharan Burrow.

She said the summit should involve government, business leaders and unions who all need to be on the same page if we are to meet the challenges of 2009.

“A summit won’t solve the economic downturn, but it can achieve a consensus about measures to minimise its impact on jobs and incomes of working Australians,” Ms Burrow said.

“The Prime Minister has said we are all in this together, and we need to get all stakeholders in the one room to discuss a joint strategy.

“This must be more than just talk – we want to see concrete plans come out of the summit.”

Unions are calling for the government to rapidly proceed with a second economic stimulus package with a direct focus on preserving and creating jobs.

Ms Burrow said the government had to date shown a willingness to act quickly and decisively, including the $10 billion-plus of spending before Christmas.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s acknowledgement that jobs had to be the government’s top priority this year was welcome, she said.

“With each passing day, the outlook gets bleaker,” Ms Burrow said.

“BHP Billiton’s decision to sack more than 3000 Australian workers tells us that even the most profitable companies are not accepting their responsibility to protect jobs.

“Many economists are predicting the ranks of the unemployed could rise by more than 200,000 this year.

“Employers need to play their part, and Government must again act boldly with a further stimulus that is targeted at jobs that can begin on day one, such as construction work retrofitting houses and commercial buildings to make them more energy and water efficient.”

Ms Burrow said new income security and training measures must be explored to keep our labour force off the long-term unemployed queues.

The banks must also do their bit to protect home owners from foreclosures in return for the billions of taxpayers’ dollars spent assisting them.