Tony Abbott must rule out changes to penalty rates following revelations his IR spokesman, Eric Abetz, has been secretly meeting with big business groups running a campaign to strip penalty rates from hundreds of thousands of workers.
ACTU National Secretary Dave Oliver said Tony Abbott needed to guarantee a future Coalition government would not bow to the wishes of big business and scrap penalty rates.
"Groups such as the Retailers Association tried and failed to get rid of penalty rates this year through an application to Fair Work Australia," Mr Oliver said.
"It is clear they will have another go after the election and expect the Coalition government to back them in.
"Eric Abetz has hardly been sighted during the election campaign, and now we know why, he has been in secret meetings with business groups who are pushing an agenda that would strip away workers' rights and penalty rates, and increase the use of individual contracts.
"Tony Abbott is planning a major inquiry into the IR system by the pro-business Productivity Commission but won't tell voters the terms of reference.
"He needs to guarantee that he will not bow to the demands for business groups to cut penalty rates for hundreds of thousands of low-paid workers. This is money that workers need to cover basic expenses, and which creates employment when it is spent.
"Senator Abetz and Mr Abbott must tell workers the terms of reference for this inquiry, and state categorically that penalty rates will be off the table.
"They must also rule out supporting an employer application to the Fair Work Commission to abolish or reduce penalty rates.
"Labor voted earlier this year to enshrine penalty rates in law, but the Coalition opposed it, and now we know why.
"The Coalition's record on IR means that Tony Abbott's attempt to avoid the issue is simply not enough. He now needs to make a commitment that penalty rates will not change if he is elected."
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