Changes ensure penalty rates formalised in law: Gillard

PENALTY rates for shift workers will be protected under new changes to the Fair Work Act, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said on Thursday.

Ms Gillard announced the new modern awards objective to be created during an Australian Council of Trade Unions summit in Canberra.

The proposal will make penalty rates become a formal consideration when the Fair Work Commission sets national pay rates.

Ms Gillard said the changes would ensure penalty rates for those who worked unsocial, irregular or unpredictable hours would be formalised in law.

The announcement also was very similar to proposals put by various unions, including the ACTU, to the current FWC review of modern awards.

"Here, we are particularly discussing the two million Australians whose jobs are not secure today," Ms Gillard said.

"Who don't know how many hours they'll work next week or next month - who can't save or plan to get ahead - whose opportunities in life are restricted and whose family's future is constrained, simply by the conditions of their employment."

Ms Gillard also spoke to the union audience about the Federal Government's planned reforms to the 457 visa program.

She said the reforms announced earlier in the week would help to ensure more jobs went to Australian workers, rather than to those on the temporary skilled visa.

"Employers must demonstrate that they are not nominating positions where a genuine shortage does not exist," she said.

"The enforceability of existing training requirements for businesses that use the program will be strengthened."

But the basis for those reforms was senior government allegations some business were rorting the visa program.

To date, no evidence has been revealed to prove, or disprove such allegations.