Real measures to protect workers' entitlements
The ACTU last week released an "affordable and practical" proposal for the protection of workers' entitlements in response to the Government's failure to meet its promise to have legislation in place by January 1 this year. The legislation was to have protected workers from losing millions of dollars in accrued entitlements when companies fold up. Instead, the Government has proposed a "basic safety net" that would initially be paid for by taxpayers. The ACTU's plan will provide full compensation for employees' lost entitlements. ACTU Secretary Greg Combet said the ACTU scheme was far superior to the Federal Government's proposed scheme. "We have welcomed the belated recognition by the Howard Government that a national safety net scheme for the protection of employee entitlements must be established", said Mr Combet. "But we condemn the Government's proposal for a safety net which will only provide meagre and partial compensation for employees' lost entitlements". The ACTU called on the Government to scrap its scheme immediately and replace it with a scheme that provides for full entitlements and does not exclude any group of workers who have recently suffered this fate. Last week Prime Minister Howard was confronted by yet another group of sacked workers who were owed hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost entitlements. Meat workers on the NSW South Coast were angry that their case had been ignored by the Government even though they had presented their case at a Senate inquiry last year. They thought it was "strange" that the Government was continuing to ignore their case and that of many other workers, but had taken up the case of National Textiles — a company chaired by the Prime Minister's brother Stanley Howard. Nurses also spoke out last week urging the Government to take action over a number of nursing home operators who continue to operate nursing homes despite owing tens of thousands of dollars to their former employees from previous nursing homes they have closed or sold. The ACTU's National Employees' Entitlements Protection Scheme would provide for a 0.1 per cent levy of wages/salaries on all employers to be paid into a central fund managed by an independent body. The ACTU said it is also examining an industry-based mutual society insurance model. Under this model a fund, into which premiums would be paid, would be jointly run by industry providers and any profits or surplus would benefit industry and employees, such as through reduced premiums. The ACTU's proposals are to ensure that workers receive their full entitlements and to put an end to the current system where workers are left last on the list of creditors.