Half-day holidays threatened: Senator

CLARENCE Valley workers will lose their public holidays, including local gazetted holidays, if the Howard Government proceeds with its hostile takeover of industrial relations powers, Labor Senator Michael Forshaw has warned.

Sutherland Shire-based Senator Forshaw, visiting the Valley last Friday and Saturday, claimed that the half-day Ramornie and Grafton Cup race days, Maclean Show Day and Jacaranda Thursday were under threat.

He was responding to claims by Australian Business Limited that workers would continue to enjoy Christmas Day, Anzac Day and all other public holidays because they were gazetted by State governments.

"I have been informed by NSW Minister for Industrial Relations John Della Bosca that public holidays are in State Awards, but they are not included in the new minimum conditions proposed by the Commonwealth," he said.

"The Commonwealth has proposed only five minimum stan- dards in new workplace agreements; the minimum wage (which the Commonwealth claims is too high), annual leave (some of which can be 'cashed in'), personal leave, parental leave and hours of work."

Senator Forshaw said this meant employees would have to personally negotiate with their boss whether they get the day off, or even whether they get penalty rates if required to work.

"It's up to the employee to negotiate penalty rates, public holidays and changes to rosters in an environment that includes no real umpire," he said.

"Australian Business Limited may not intend to abolish Anzac Day, Christmas Day or Australia Day, but the reality is that the Commonwealth is allowed a free-for-all where that's exactly what can happen."

Backing up his case, the Senator pointed to Western Australia when the former Court Liberal Government allowed workers to cash in holidays under workplace agreements ? 50 per cent contained no annual leave whatsoever.

"It is a worry that even the leading business groups don't understand how socially divisive the Howard Government's proposals will be," he said.

"Labor is opposed to these changes because social division is bad for business and bad for families."

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