Former union boss and Labor industry minister Greg Combet has been appointed to advise the Morrison government on the fallout of coronavirus for the Australian workforce.
Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter announced the new part-time role on Friday afternoon.
Mr Combet will provide strategic and policy advice to the minister and engage directly with union and business leaders.
The government has already announced some measures to help workers and business owners affected by the pandemic.
More changes are on the way as the situation rapidly escalates.
“Mr Combet’s background, insight and expertise will be invaluable,” Mr Porter said.
“Not only to the government but to all those directly affected, including employee and employer representatives and, most importantly, workers who are directly affected.”
Some businesses such as Telstra, Woolworths and the Commonwealth Bank have already promised to support casual workers who lose shifts because of the virus.
Qantas and Woolworths are working together to find temporary positions for airline staff who have been stood down.
“This is new territory for us all,” Mr Porter said.
“The willingness to work together augurs well for all parties to continue working closely and cooperatively as we move through this unprecedented situation.”
Mr Combet and the minister attended a meeting of workers and bosses in Sydney on Friday morning, which was video-linked to Melbourne and Canberra.
Before serving as a minister in the Gillard and Rudd Labor governments, Mr Combet rose to prominence as a union leader.
He was secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, a high-profile figure in the waterfront dispute and helped secure entitlements for workers after the collapse of airline Ansett.