Are you being dudded by your boss? The nation’s most powerful union group is launching a fresh crusade on behalf of casual workers, in a move the Federal Government has dismissed as the work of “left-wing lunatic” influences.
- ACTU wants casuals to be able to request to convert to permanency if they have been working in a regular capacity for six months
- At the moment, some casuals can request that change but employers can say no
- Small Business Minister says proposal is unnecessary and “insecure” work is not on the rise
Currently casual workers can be sacked without notice and are not eligible for sick leave or annual leave. They do not have any guaranteed hours of work.
On the flipside casual staff are paid more, getting a 25 per cent loading to make up for the absence of other benefits.
Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) secretary Sally McManus has bemoaned employers that keep their staff on “casual” rates despite effectively employing them in a permanent capacity.
“The goodwill you get from giving loyalty to your employees and giving them that security they need to build a life is repaid back to you,” she said.
“Where people are disposable and they get treated like that, that’s how they can sometimes feel towards their employers as well.”
At the moment employees can ask for consideration of more benefits after a year, but the ACTU wants to allow people to be able to request to convert to permanency if they have been working in a regular capacity for six months.
Small Business and Workplace Minister Craig Laundy has warned the proposal is unnecessary and the current system is not broken.
“It is working exactly as it was designed to function,” Mr Laundy said.
“This is a left-wing lunatic attempt to reset [the ACTU’s] business model.”
Ms McManus acknowledged that a move to permanency would mean an hourly rate pay cut.
“The compensation for that is sick leave and annual leave,” she said.
“It works out about the same.”
Call for access to benefits after six months
After a casual worker has been in their job for a year, the Fair Work Australia website details the options for lobbying to change.
After 12 months an employee can request flexible working arrangements and take parental leave.
Ms McManus maintains the system does not obligate bosses to accept staff requests, even if they have shown a long-term commitment.
“The problem at the moment is, workers can request it but but employers can just say no and there’s no appeal to that,” she said.
“If workers are working regularly, if they are proper permanent workers, [they should be] able to get the benefits of being a permanent worker.”
The ACTU proposal would fundamentally change the power structure in request for conversion from casual to permanent, because the employee would have the right to make the change.
Mr Laundy said the Fair Work Commission considered a proposal last year and added a “casual conversion” to 86 awards.
He argued this system — which gives the boss the right to decide — was working.
“You have the right to ask, but the employer has the right to decline,” he said.
“That’s the Fair Work Commission’s decision. Not mine.”
Mr Laundy also highlighted the way the commission was set up, with support from Labor and the Greens.
Discussion comes amid labour hire crackdown
According to the ACTU, 40 per cent of Australian workers are in “insecure” employment, as casual workers or in new business ventures like Uber, which have not established job security.
“We’ve got a real crisis of insecure work in this country,” Ms McManus told ABC’s AM program.
“That includes labour hire, contract work, freelancers, workers who are asked to get their own ABN, and ‘gig economy’ workers.
“We think that labour hire is becoming a real emerging business model, where companies are essentially contracting out the employment of workers to get rid of their job security.”
She said while some workplaces, like cafes, had genuine casuals, overall this was leading to situations where two set of workers “doing exactly the same work” were paid differently and did not have the same job security.
Mr Laundy has rubbished the suggestion that the rate of insecure work is on the rise.
“It’s based on lies. The lie is that the rate of insecure work in this country is lifting,” he said.
“It’s not. It’s completely where it was 20 years ago.”