Feb 11, 2021

Labor IR move to shake up labour hire conditions

Labor IR move to shake up labour hire conditions

Key elements of Labor’s newly announced IR package would stamp out the ‘permanent casual’ labour hire rort plaguing the mining industry, the CFMEU says.

Australian Labor Party leader Anthony Albanese stressed the drawbacks of insecure work as he launched the party’s job security plan this week.

“When the pandemic began, casuals – who account for about a quarter of the Australian workforce – lost their jobs eight times faster than those in more secure forms of employment,” he said.

“A million casual workers were excluded from JobKeeper, forcing many of them into Centrelink queues.

“When you add in other forms of insecure work – contractors, freelancers, gig workers and those on temporary contracts or working in labour hire – nearly half the workforce misses out on the many benefits of a permanent job.”

The CFMEU says Labor’s policy offers a fair, objective definition of casual work that looks at the reality of working conditions and not just the contract at point of hire.

There is also a focus on ‘same job same pay’ for labour hire workers meaning companies can’t pay labour hire workers less than direct employees doing the same job. 

These two measures were necessary for stamping out a business model embraced by mining companies to drive down workers’ wages and conditions, CFMEU general president Tony Maher said.

“The IR Omnibus Bill currently before the Parliament includes an unfair definition of casual based purely on the label in your contract, not the reality of your work arrangements,” he said.

“And it includes weak, unenforceable casual conversion provisions that employers can easily ignore.”

Labor plan would cut jobs – ACCI

 But the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry describe Labor’s policy as a plan as a a plan for fewer jobs and closing businesses.

“It’s a plan to kill off casual employment, something unions are desperate to do, but which will harm young people, small and family business people and local communities,” ACCI workplace relations director Scott Barklamb said.

“Wiping out casual work won’t lead to more part or full-time positions, it will lead to fewer jobs and lower pay.”

Secure jobs could only come from secure, economically sustainable enterprises, and they relied on employers and employees having options for how they worked, he said. 

Mr Barklamb said also the portable leave entitlements proposed by Labor would impose massive new costs on employers and make contingent liabilities and costs absolute from the first day of employment.

Australian Labor Party leader Anthony Albanese.

Mr Albanese said the Centre for Future Work found that the recent jobs rebound had been overwhelmingly comprised of insecure jobs.

“That will act as a handbrake on Australia’s recovery because people will not have the confidence to spend their money, fearing they could quickly lose their jobs again if there is another crisis or downturn,” he said.

Among the measures Labor proposes to improve job security are: 

  • Make job security an object of the Fair Work Act 2009 so that it becomes a core focus for the Fair Work Commission’s decisions;
  • Extend the powers of the Fair Work Commission to include “employee-like” forms of work, allowing it to better protect people in new forms of work, like app-based gig work, from exploitation and dangerous working conditions; 
  • Legislate a fair, objective test to determine when a worker can be classified as a casual so people have a clearer pathway to permanent work;
  • Limit the number of consecutive fixed-term contracts an employer can offer for the same role, with an overall cap of 24 months.