From today employers of more than half the Australian workforce with have to pay extra superannuation and spend more on training.
Employers groups says the changes will result in major job losses or increased prices.
The Confederation of Australian Industry says the superannuation increases will cost between 45,000 and 60,000 jobs.
From today employers with a payroll of more than $1 million will have to pay each employee 4 per cent of salary in vested superannuation to all employees earning more than $450 a month, up from 3 per cent.
Also from today all employers with a payroll of more than $200,000 indexed (about $215,000 by now) will have to pay 1.5 per cent of the payroll in training, up from 1 per cent.
The CAI says the training levy will cause a commensurate level of job losses, but a spokesman would not put a precise figure on it yesterday.
The CAI covers 250,000 businesses employing about 65 per cent of the private-sector workforce. It estimates that $1.7 billion will be leached out of businesses by the superannuation levy. Other effects might be higher prices, postponing investment and pay increases, cuts to other employee benefits.
A spokesman for the Motor Trades Association of Australia said large employers in the industry were likely to shed jobs at an equivalent rate of the extra levy. But smaller businesses would not. The MTAA covers 40,000 businesses employing 250,000 people.
The MTAA would be surveying its members later this year on the effect of the levies, when their impact settled down.
The prospect of the levy came at a time the MTAA and associated industry associations were having their annual conferences so a good feel about the likely impact could be obtained. The bottom line had to be preserved to retain competitiveness, so it was likely that job losses would be more through retrenchments than natural attrition.
There was great pessimism on jobs at the conferences.
The executive director of the Housing Industry Association, Ron Silberberg, said his industry was not directly affected because it relied more on contract labour, but it would be affected by price increases passed on by companies that made materials that were half the cost of a house.
The CAI’s Steve Kates said the two levies were a nightmare for businesses.
“”The headaches are endless,” he said. “”Plenty of companies are easily spending the 1.5 per cent on training, the trouble is the administrative costs. Valuable executive time is being taken away from running the business to proving that the training money has been spent.”
On superannuation, he said that business did not know the details, which funds qualified, where they stood with award superannuation funds and so on.
The Metal Trades Industry Association has also expressed concern that today tariffs will be cut by 2 per cent on a wide range of metal and engineering products.
Industry sources say employers are spending an estimated $100 million a year now on training. This is expected to rise to more than $150 next financial year. The Tax Office collected $3.1 million in training shortfall in the 90-91 financial year. Only 15 per cent of employers are liable for the levy but they employ 75 per cent of workforce.