Worker protections added to wage subsidies

Christian Porter has announced worker protections as part of the $130b JobKeeper plan.
Christian Porter has announced worker protections as part of the $130b JobKeeper plan.

The Morrison government has struck a historic deal with unions to put the finishing touches on $130 billion in wage subsides designed to save six million jobs.

Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter on Tuesday announced an agreement with Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Sally McManus.

"I'm not pretending that they love everything in the government draft, but it is a draft in which they have had some input," he told reporters in Canberra.

Under the scheme, businesses that take a financial hit because of the coronavirus pandemic will get $1500 in fortnightly payments to pass on to workers.

Employees who have their hours cut will be able to request time to work a second job.

The Fair Work Commission will be able to review stand-down periods and employer changes to people's work location or duties.

Workers can agree to change their days, while bosses could also ask for annual leave to be taken, provided employees have two weeks left over.

Reasonable requests to take annual leave will not be able to be refused.

While unions pushed for changes to be made through the Fair Work Commission, the government will instead legislate temporary amendments to the Fair Work Act.

Labor will back the legislation in parliament on Wednesday, while arguing for more casuals to be included.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese is hopeful the government will consider amendments.

"No individual or no political party has a monopoly on common sense and on good policy," he told Sky News.

"They should be prepared to listen and be flexible."

While the JobKeeper payment is expected to cover six million people, 1.1 million casuals who have been with their employer less than a year are set to miss out.

"I think there's going to be an agreement to disagree on casuals," Mr Porter said.

The government argues casuals not covered will be eligible for the $1100-a-fortnight JobSeeker allowance and other welfare benefits.

Another 1.1 million temporary migrant workers are also not covered.

More than 120 faith, union, business, civil society and migrant groups have urged the government to include overseas workers.

Migrant Workers Centre director Matt Kunkel said the vast majority of people on temporary visas couldn't go home because of closed borders or not being able to afford an airfare.

"We cannot afford to leave anyone behind," he said.

But Mr Porter signalled the government would not budge on migrant workers.

"There are always going to have to be lines drawn here," he said.

Australian Associated Press