The South Coast Labour Council has slammed the federal government's plan to "reinvigorate" the work-for-the-dole program, claiming it would punish the unemployed.
Secretary Arthur Rorris labelled intentions to restore the scheme an "exercise in mass distraction" and called on the government to create jobs rather than demonising the unemployed.
"This is clearly aimed at covering up the fact that the government is in no position to fulfil its election promise to create one million jobs," he said.
"In fact, it has done the exact opposite by axing jobs in the public sector and failing to provide any business growth in the private sector.
"Now they've decided to bash the unemployed ... the focus needs to be on creating jobs, not casting the unemployed as the villains."
The Coalition recently announced plans to launch an "enhanced" work-for-the-dole scheme.
Under the proposal, dole recipients would help with civic maintenance in return for their unemployment benefit.
Assistant Employment Minister Luke Hartsuyker argued the scheme would improve job seekers' prospects and teach them necessary "soft skills" like arriving on time.
But Mr Rorris believes the plan would punish the newly unemployed: "The government has said that it plans to 'get tough on unemployment' - why do that to the NRE miners who have just lost their jobs or the former steelworkers who, through no fault of their own, have found themselves unemployed?"
"It's a question of providing assistance to these people ... and supporting industries like manufacturing that still have an important place in the region.
"This [plan] is not about training the unemployed ... if it was, the government would be investing money in TAFE and education programs where people could reskill."
Mr Rorris called on the region's community leaders to stand up against the reforms.
Work-for-the-dole was introduced by the Howard government but scaled back under Labor.
Currently, job seekers between 18 and 49 are generally required to participate in a "work experience activity" - where work-for-the-dole is one option - for six months out of a 12-month period.