Gillard warns union on pay demands

Acting Prime Minister Julia Gillard has warned unions to put job security in front of wage rises as unions prepare to renegotiate 5000 enterprise bargain agreements in the next 12 months.

Acting Prime Minister Julia Gillard has warned unions to put job security in front of wage rises as unions prepare to renegotiate 5000 enterprise bargain agreements in the next 12 months.

“The global financial crisis means Australian businesses and their employees are facing a turbulent period,” she said yesterday. “In this economic climate, job security will be foremost in most people’s minds.

“Responsible unions will be giving this issue their full attention in the interests of their members and seeking creative and responsible outcomes in enterprise bargaining to assist businesses to ride out this period.”

But Sharan Burrow, president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, has dismissed Gillard’s warning. “If you don’t protect incomes, then that’s a negative for the economy as well,” Burrow told ABC radio this morning.

“If working people can’t pay their bills, if in fact their mortgage is threatened… then that’s not going to help the economy survive, nor indeed recover.”

Gillard’s warning came as the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union launched a claim for a 33% pay rise over three years for workers at a West Australian mine owned by aluminium giant Alcoa.

The union’s demand came on the same day Alcoa sacked 13,500 workers around the globe, although none of the company’s Australian workers will lose their jobs.

But Burrow says the union’s claims are reasonable, as the Alcoa workers are skilled workers the company must retain.

She has also warned companies against using the global financial crisis as an excuse for underpaying workers.

“Most businesses will know that they need to keep their workers, that it’s in their interests in the medium term to make sure they’ve got a workforce that is ready to meet increased demand.”

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