Labor is stepping up its fight over industrial relations changes with a national advertising campaign featuring a knife-brandishing chef who accuses Prime Minister Scott Morrison of slashing wages and conditions.
The ad and plans for a stoush on the topic are likely to dominate in Parliament this week as Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter accused Labor of wanting to cut a quarter of the pay packet for casual workers.
Labor is stepping up its fight over industrial relations changes with a national advertising campaign.
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese has pitched a plan to create secure jobs, including forcing employers to offer a permanent position to any employee after two years or two fixed-term contracts, and to make a range of entitlements portable between jobs with different firms in the same industry. It sets up an alternative to the Morrison government’s industrial overhaul, which is struggling to win support in the Senate, in part because of a proposal to allow coronavirus-hit businesses to strike wages deals that leave workers worse off.
Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Sally McManus says the opposition’s plan would be cost-neutral to employers because they wouldn’t have to pay casual loadings if staff became permanent and entitlements were offered.
“I actually think it is a positive for business,” she told ABC’s Insiders program.
“This [portable entitlements] is already happening in the construction industry and in the community sector industries. They work very successfully. Employers like it because over a period of time they actually pay less.”
Mr Porter accused Labor and the unions of hitting casual workers with a massive pay cut by forcing them into permanent jobs without the loading payment.
“Many casuals prefer to hold on to their higher pay and the flexibility that is provided by casual work. Labor wants to take this choice away and cut their pay by 25 per cent in the process,” he said.
Opposition industrial relations spokesman Tony Burke said this was “making up ridiculous lies” and wasn’t Labor’s policy.
The government’s proposal, before Parliament, includes legislating a definition of a casual employee and requiring business to convert casuals to permanent jobs after 12 months unless they have reasonable grounds not to.
Ms McManus said this was an improvement on the existing situation but unions would like a shorter timeframe.
Labor’s new 30-second television ad, airing in every state and territory this week, shows a chef sharpening large knives while a voice-over declares: “Employers can use Scott Morrison’s new industrial relations laws to slash your wages and conditions and slice away your penalty rates and overtime. Sticking it to ordinary workers is no way to help Australia recover.”
Another ad already on air, commissioned by the Electrical Trades Union and the construction arm of the CFMMEU, has divided the labour movement. Some officials say its depiction of the Prime Minister as a bus driver speeding towards workers is counterproductive.
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