Australians’ work is becoming less secure. Only 60 per cent of workers are in full or part-time ongoing employment. The rest – around four million workers – are engaged either as casuals, on short-term contracts, in labour hire, or as “independent” contractors.
Casual work was originally limited to those rare cases where an employer could not cover the workload with permanent workers because of unforeseen workload peaks or temporary short term staff shortages. It was closely regulated in awards and agreements to protect permanent work.
Today things have changed. Employers use casual and other insecure work arrangements to cover entire work functions. For many employers, it’s now a business model. Our work laws have made it more and more difficult to protect permanent work. The result is an emerging class of workers without jobs they can count on. They have no sick leave, no holidays, no job security, little bargaining power and severely reduced capacity to get home loans. Casualisation and insecure work have led to Australia having more inequality now than at any time on record.
The rules need to change to make our jobs, and our lives, more secure.