Millions of workers in Australian small businesses would benefit from the sensible stand taken today by the opposition parties against the Howard Government’s proposed unfair dismissal laws, the ACTU said.

ACTU President Sharan Burrow welcomed comments today from both the Australian Democrats and the ALP against the Government’s plans to exempt small businesses from unfair dismissal laws.

Ms Burrow also welcomed comments by Opposition Leader Simon Crean and Shadow Workplace Relations Minister Robert McClelland rejecting a new Australian Industry Group proposal to restrict any exemption to small business employees with less than 12 months service.

‘It would be unfair and discriminatory to remove the legal rights and job security of one class of employees, simply because they have worked for a small business for less than 12 months,’ Ms Burrow said.

‘The sensible stand taken by the Australian Democrats and the ALP has exposed the Howard Government?s cynical manipulation of small businesses for his own political ends. Current dismissal laws only prohibit unfair behaviour and are not a major burden on small businesses.’

Ms Burrow released new collated results of ACTU polling of 300 small businesses in three States showing that not one respondent nominated unfair dismissal laws as a reason for not hiring new staff.

The survey also showed that 45% of small businesses nominated the GST as the Government policy that most concerned them, compared to only 8% for unfair dismissal laws.

Ms Burrow said the survey findings were consistent with other studies showing there was no evidence for the Government?s repeated claim that unfair dismissal laws restricted employment growth. In the last comprehensive Commonwealth survey (AWIRS 95), less than 1% of small businesses gave unfair dismissal laws as a reason for not hiring staff.