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News News Employers must not use jobs market as an excuse to slash pay and conditions: ACTU
Employers must not use the uncertain jobs market to pressure workers into accepting cuts to their pay and conditions, unions said today in response to new unemployment data.

Unions are concerned that some employers are telling workers they must sign new job contracts that could lock them into lower wages and conditions for years to come.

ACTU President Sharan Burrow said the rise in unemployment in December was a further sign of the real impact of the global financial crisis on Australian economy.

“It is wrong to use the global financial crisis as an excuse to entrench WorkChoices-style pay and conditions before industrial relations reforms later this year,” Ms Burrow said.

“The tough times haven’t hit yet and already some unscrupulous employers are pressuring workers to accept inferior wages and conditions and scrimping on pay and entitlements to maintain their bottom line.

“Using the threat of job losses to force workers into poor deals is unconscionable behaviour, especially since the crisis has been caused by unrestrained greed and a short-term drive for profits. Employers need to take a look at themselves and begin by cutting back on the excessive salaries and lavish perks they have enjoyed in recent years.

“Company profits have soared to record levels in Australia, while the share of national income workers get as wages is at all-time lows.”

Unions are urging the Government to increase funding for workplace development programs to give employers alternatives to cutting jobs or standing down workers.

Instead, businesses should seek to redeploy staff, reduce excessive hours, and invest in retraining and reskilling their workforce to position themselves for the eventual recovery from the global economic crisis, Ms Burrow said.

There is a strong case for a further economic stimulus package directed at preventing job losses, minimising job losses and assisting workers where they occur, including support for hard-hit industries.

“We need to be doing all we can to maintain employment and income security,” she said.

“In particular, the Fair Work Bill should be amended and passed by the Senate as soon as possible to provide better safeguards against exploitation and discrimination of workers.

“Collective bargaining will help protect workers from overbearing pressure to cut wages and conditions.

“Workers also need protection from unfair dismissal so that axing their jobs is not the first action of employers at the first sign of a slowdown.”

Ms Burrow said anyone who is being pressured by an employer into accepting pay cuts or a new job contract should contact their union.

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