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More IR concerns emerge -

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(generated from captions) More claims have emerged of unfair treatment under the Government's new industrial relations laws.

Victorian construction workers were docked half a day's pay for taking a break to collect money for the widow of a colleague. And about 60 Optus workers say they've been sacked and invited to re-apply for their jobs on lower pay. The Government is continuing to defend the new system saying safeguards are in place to stop employers exploiting the new laws. Rachel Carbonell reports. Last Friday, construction workers at this Melbourne site stopped work to collect money for the family of a colleague killed in an industrial accident. The company says it must now dock four hours pay from the workers or risk being fined itself. Of course we're sympathetic. Of course we would have granted the approval for the meeting if the rules had been followed, but unfortunately our hands are tied. We have no choice. The workers accept that explanation and are directing their anger at the Government. What we've got here is a situation on the job is a blue where there was no blue. The union says it will seek to challenge the law. When one of our people is killed we feel it and we feel it hard and we look after the families of workers who have died. We just believe it's unAustralian. It's taking away the Australian spirit of helping one another. The Government agrees the situation need not have blown up into a dispute and says the union should simply have sought some advice. If this was a stoppage for a few minutes just to have a whip around to collect some money for the family then it's unlikely, very unlikely, that that constitutes industrially motivated action. The Government says the law is there for a good reason. These laws are there because of abuse in the past. The construction workers in Melbourne weren't the only employees crying foul today.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions says about 70 Optus employees have been sacked and invited to re-apply for their jobs as independent contractors on lower pay and conditions. Either the job is redundant or it's not. Now clearly it's not a bona fide redundancy from where we sit. We estimate that with all of these costs incurred these workers will be $200-$300 a week worse off. We'll look at the legal implications, but I can assure you that if Optus gets away with this then every other company is watching. Optus says about 60 workers have been made redundant as part of a restructure and the decision has nothing to do with the WorkChoices legislation. The Government says the new system doesn't allow companies

to exploit the legislation. I would be very surprised if companies like Optus aren't aware of those provisions. The Minister has agreed to consider concerns from employer groups about what they say is excessive time-keeping requirements for executives. Our view is that there should have been no increase in red tape with the new regulations. So we're looking at that so we can bring about hopefully a result that will satisfy both those who are on high salaries and don't need these requirements, but also maintain protection for workers. The latest Newspoll shows support for the Government's workplace reforms has dropped since they were introduced as has the popularity of the Prime Minister, John Howard. However, Opposition Leader Kim Beazley's support has also declined. Rachel Carbonell, Lateline.