Fears of the impact of JobKeeper's removal on the travel industry appear to have been realised after national travel agent Helloworld asked staff to take five-figure pay cuts.
In a move the union says is unlawful, a leaked email used in question time on Thursday shows staff being told they will return to full-time work when the wage subsidy ends in March, but with a pay-packet approximately 20 per cent smaller than before the pandemic.
The Australian Services Union estimates hundreds of staff could be affected.
Travel industry figures have been begging for JobKeeper to be extended, and Labor's employment spokesman Richard Marles said the email showed support was needed when the subsidy ended.
"JobKeeper needs to be transitioned in a way which is realistic to the circumstances which are out there," he said on Sky News.
Industrial relations is set to be a major flashpoint in 2021, and Labor says workers would be vulnerable to pressure from employers to agree to pay cuts under the government's proposed changes.
But Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter said by opposing all the government's changes, Labor was standing in the way of sensible reforms that would create jobs.
In question time Scott Morrison said he was unaware of the correspondence before noting the government had provided direct support to travel agents on top of JobKeeper.
The Coalition's industrial relations bill allows the Fair Work Commission to consider coronavirus when approving agreements that don't meet the better off overall test.
Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter also said he hadn't seen the letter but denied the planned changes would allow for pay cuts.
"There is nothing in the government's industrial relations reform bill which would allow for a process such as that," he said.
The email, dated February 3, used by the opposition shows a human resources manager asking a worker whose pre-pandemic annual salary including superannuation was $83,206 to switch to a $65,700 package.
"To accept the proposed adjustment to your remuneration, please sign below," the email reads.
The employee had been receiving a $33,283 package under the JobKeeper scheme which is due to end at the end of March.
The HR manager says the "adjustment" will be reviewed in November 2021.
"This temporary change means that you will be working on a full-time basis where you have certainty about both your role and your remuneration," the email says.
Labor used the email in question time on Thursday, as part of a continued campaign against the government on both the economic recovery from the pandemic, and proposed changes to industrial relations laws.
Australian Services Union National Secretary Robert Potter said he was seeking an urgent meeting with company management.
"Helloworld's attempts to cut staff pay when JobKeeper ends in March are both unfair and potentially unlawful," Mr Potter said.
"To make matters worse, Helloworld is also asking that workers return to full-time hours for this reduced pay, after their hours reduced while in receipt of JobKeeper.
"This brazen and illegal attempt to slash pay and increase work hours occurred with no attempt to consult workers through their union, as is the company's legal responsibility under their enterprise bargaining agreement."
The travel industry has been at the centre of calls for government support for business to be continued when the JobKeeper wage subsidy ends in March. International borders look set to be closed until well into 2022, and snap lockdowns and border closures between states have smashed the confidence of Australians to book holidays outside their own states.
Australian Federation of Travel Agents chief executive Darren Rudd said without government support, up to 70 per cent of travel agents could be lost without a return to international travel.
Mr Rudd said agents were subject to legal requirements and urged them to support staff as government support was cut off.
"We would certainly urge all of our members to abide by the law," he said.
The federation has been among many industry groups calling for businesses reliant on international and domestic travel to keep receiving sector specific support.
Mr Rudd argued businesses should have to prove their reliance on travel and a dramatic drop in revenue of at least 90 per cent from 2019 to 2020 to be eligible for a new payment.
"There has to be a threshold test that has to be defensible to the public and other sectors that do not receive it," he said.
A survey conducted by Small Business Australia last month found 97 per cent of the county's travel agents were reliant on JobKeeper and of those, 2600 would close permanently without a replacement support.
Small Business Australia executive director Bill Lang said without continued support, some business owners may be backed into a corner.
"One risk will be is if some of these smaller businesses don't actually have adequate financial resources and they have to make some of their employees redundant, the business might be bankrupt, it might not have any ability to pay entitlements [to employees] ... because the owner doesn't have anything." he said.
Helloworld was contacted for comment.