Industrial umpire to host COVID pay talks

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Unions, business groups and federal and NSW government officials will meet next Tuesday for talks on COVID-19 pandemic support for workers.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions wrote to the Fair Work Commission on Thursday seeking its help in drafting temporary measures in modern awards.

One of the streams of support requires businesses to maintain employee staffing levels as a condition of continuing payment.

The ACTU is calling for safeguards to be put in place in all awards to protect jobs and require employers who are receiving the NSW and federal government’s new support payments to maintain their employment, inform workers about their rights and allow any disputes that arise to be resolved by the commission.

The union peak body says businesses and organisations receiving the payments should be required to advise each employee that while they continue to get a government payment they are not permitted to terminate their employment, or reduce the number of staff employed or reduce the hours of part-time or casual employees.

Businesses should also provide employees with information about any additional government supports available to them.

“Taxpayers’ money should not be given to business without strings attached,” ACTU president Michele O’Neil said.

“We need safeguards in place that make sure working people know what their employers have committed to and what their rights are under this new system.”

Commission president Iain Ross has agreed to a private conference at 1pm AEST on Tuesday, seeking government information on the support scheme to be filed by 4pm on Friday.

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