The Guardian March 1, 2000


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.

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