ACTU calls on Fair Work Commission to Protect Jobs during lockdowns

The ACTU is extremely concerned that because the Morrison Government has walked away from JobKeeper which guaranteed job and income security, many workers are now in danger of losing their jobs as there are very weak obligations on employers.

For this reason, the ACTU has written to Fair Work Commission President Iain Ross to ask that he urgently convene a conference to consider changes to Modern Awards to protect jobs amid the growing crisis in NSW..

The ACTU is calling for safeguards to be put in place in all awards to protect jobs and require employers who are receiving the NSW and Federal Government’s new support payments to maintain their employment, inform workers about their rights and allow any disputes that arise to be resolved by the Commission.

In a letter to President Ross the ACTU calls for all Modern Awards to be varied to provide that businesses and organisations receiving the new payments to be required to:

  • Advise each employee that they are in receipt of a government payment and that whilst they continue to receive that payment they are not permitted to terminate the employment of staff, or reduce the number of staff employed or reduce the hours of part time or casual employees,
  • Provide employees with information about any additional supports which are available to them through State or Federal Governments.

In addition, the letter calls on Mr Ross to make the FWC available to resolve any disputes between employers and working people that arise from the implementation of these new arrangements, measures that were extremely effective in keeping employers honest under JobKeeper.

Quotes attributable to ACTU President Michele O’Neil:

“There are huge gaps in the measures announced by the Morrison Government when they abandoned the system workers and businesses understood, JobKeeper. JobKeeper meant employers kept workers in jobs. These new schemes have very few job protections and are wide open to rorting.

“This means there is a significant risk that the threadbare protections for workers outlined by the Prime Minister – like the handshake agreement not to lay anyone off once the payments start – will not be honoured.

“Tax payers money should not be given to business without strings attached.

“We need safeguards in place that make sure working people know what their employers have committed to and what their rights are under this new system.

“The Fair Work Commission can provide these safeguards and we stand ready to work with employers through the Commission to ensure that no worker falls through the cracks in this or any future lockdown.

“When working people and business have worked together during this pandemic we have been able to achieve great outcomes and save jobs. We are calling on business to come to the table to ensure that this new program works to protect jobs and cannot be exploited by unscrupulous employers.”

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