Christian Porter slams Labor’s industrial relations plan after ACTU comments spark backlash

The federal government has stepped up its attack on the opposition‘s plan to improve conditions for workers with insecure jobs.

Attorney-General Christian Porter said Labor’s industrial relations plan would cut wages for casual workers after Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) secretary Sally McManus voiced approval for the scheme on Sunday.

Labor hopes to reframe the next election as a fight over insecure work conditions rather than the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

As part of its proposal, workers in insecure industries would be able to transfer entitlements across different jobs, including annual, sick and long service leave.

Ms McManus said portable entitlements are already in place and successful in industries such as construction.

She claimed mandating employers offer a permanent position to a worker who has worked in the same role for a long time — another part of Labor‘s proposal — would end up costing businesses less.

Asked by ABC’s Insiders host David Speers how businesses would end up saving money by having to offer entitlements and full-time contracts to people who are currently casuals, Ms McManus said:

“Because the employee would then not get the casual loading.”

She said she envisioned the worker having a choice between keeping the 25 per cent casual loading on their pay, or accept the offer of full-time work and entitlements.

Ms McManus said such a scheme would also stimulate the economy.

“I actually think it is a positive for business,” she said.

“When people have certainty in their jobs, when they have that job security, they’re more likely to spend and the thing is about our coronavirus recovery, it’s going to be a grassroots recovery.”

Mr Porter seized on her comments, framing them as an admission workers would lose wages under Labor‘s plan.

“It’s now incumbent on Labor Leader, Anthony Albanese, to tell workers which ones he thinks should lose 25 per cent of their pay,” Mr Porter said in a statement on Sunday.

The government has outlined its own proposed changes to industrial relations, which Mr Porter has said would increase flexibility for both workers and employers and help recover jobs lost during the pandemic.

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