“Flexible ongoing” employment would fuel insecure work
A push from employer groups to create a new “flexible ongoing” class of employee is little more than an attempt to reduce wages and entrench insecure work, according to a recent report.
The New South Wales Business Chamber (NSWBC) and Australian Business Industrial (ABI) have applied to the Fair Work Commission (FWC) for the new employee category.
Under the employers’ proposal, casual loading would be reduced from 25% to 10% in exchange for pro-rata leave accruals. Employees would be guaranteed between 1-3 hours per week and only rostered on beyond that as required.
A PerCapita report, “Flexible Ongoing” Employment: solving a problem that doesn’t exist, said the attempt to create a new employment category is opportunistic and would simply result in another avenue for employers to “reduce fixed wage costs and shift business risk onto employees by further casualising the workforce”.
The report highlighted that the “flexible ongoing” proposal came at a time when less than half of Australian workers have a “permanent, full-time, paid job, with the right to paid leave”.
The highest levels of casualisation are found in the lowest paid industries, including hospitality, retail and food services.
While some employees enjoy the flexibility of casual work, more than a third would like more hours and many face the prospect of being denied bank loans or being unable to meet cost burdens due to loss of work without notice.
The report also emphasised the casual loading ‘fallacy’. While almost all Modern Awards stipulate a 25% loading for casual staff, research indicates the full loading is rarely applied and instead the loading actually paid averages between 4-5%.
“It is clear that casual employees in Australia are not being adequately compensated for sacrificing paid leave entitlements,” according to the report.
The report also raises the risk that should the “flexible ongoing” category prevail, some employers may choose to shift permanent employees into precarious roles in order to cut costs.
“The opportunity to send workers home and not pay them, or to contact them and tell them to not come in tomorrow, would be appealing to many employers who experience occasional but unpredictable quiet periods in their businesses,” the report says.
IEUA-QNT Branch Secretary Terry Burke said the attempt to drastically redefine the concept of secure employment was alarming.
“A permanent job and the security this brings is a foundational concept to the average Australian worker,” Mr Burke said.
“We are in the midst of an insecure work crisis with growing levels of casualised and insecure work wreaking devastating impacts upon workers who aspire to a secure job.
“The last thing we need is employers granted even greater power to lock workers into casualised arrangements.”
Mr Burke said unions’ Change The Rules campaign has long-called for an overhaul of our broken industrial rules.
“Members know far too well that our industrial rules are skewed in favour of employers – the difficulty to bargain effectively, the suppression of wages growth and instances like the NSWBC/ABI proposal are clear examples,” Mr Burke said.
The NSWBC/ABI proposal follows a significant FWC decision (WorkPac v Skene) last year which saw a casual labour hire worker at Rio Tinto granted an annual leave payout upon termination after it was established the worker had a “regular and continuous pattern of work”.
The decision was welcomed by unions as an acknowledgment of the misuse of casual work.
Read more about the Change The Rules campaign at https://www.qieu.asn.au/campaign-updates/change-the-rules/