Ange Roper is struggling to make ends meet.
She lost her gig, one built upon insecure working hours and no job security, and suddenly things looked very bleak.
It means making heartbreaking decisions about your kids that no parent wants to make.
“I now need to start considering reducing my four-year-old’s hours in kindergarten, and then risk losing her days that she’s booked in.
“My eight-year-old tried out for an extracurricular activity. She loved it absolutely loved it. And, you know, two days later I had to tell her that she couldn’t do it because mummy didn’t have a job anymore,” she said.
Ange was in Townsville last week to tell her story to a hearing of the Senate Committee on the Industrial Relations (IR) Omnibus Bill, a set of proposed laws that she believes will lock her into a life of poverty and economic insecurity.
Scott Morrison’s proposed changes to workplace laws will have devastating consequences for millions of workers. Some of its most damaging aspects include:
- Rolling back penalties for wage theft in Victoria, Queensland and the ACT.
- Allowing workers to be classed as casuals, even when they have ongoing, regular hours.
- Giving employers the ability to ask workers covered by awards, including hospitality and retail, to work at different locations or perform different duties, with no oversight from the Fair Work Commission.
- Stripping overtime pay from part-time workers in retail, hospitality and other awards.
- Doubling the length of Greenfields agreements to eight years – leaving workers on large infrastructure projects with no ability to negotiate changes to workplace conditions like rosters, or address OHS concerns.
For Rob Smith, an electrician who lives on the Gold Coast but makes a living as a fly-in-fly-out worker, his long absences from home (weeks at a time) are already pushing his family to the brink.
The Queensland sparky didn’t hold back when it was his turn to explain what damage the proposed new IR changes would have on his family.
“I’ve done up to eight weeks away from the family been asked to extend it again.
“It’s not until you speak to your partner and say, hey look, they want me to stay back another one, and my wife’s pretty blunt and she said, look if you stay away anymore, you’re going to come home to an empty house.”
Rob’s situation is being repeated all over the country as workers, trying to build a secure future for their families, are stretched beyond breaking point under the guise of ‘workplace flexibility’.
For him, it’s been a heartbreaking struggle to stay connected to those he loves most.
“Trying to reintegrate myself back into my family after being away for 4-6-8 weeks, it’s virtually impossible.
“With kids at a young age, especially in their early months, the first 12 months of their life, it’s very important for me to be around.
“I just wasn’t, I couldn’t comfort one newborn because she didn’t know who I was because I was never home,” Rob said.
He is adamant that his situation is being repeated in households all over Australia, and the government’s new plan for industrial relations will push families to the brink.
“Unfortunately, it’s not an isolated incident, it’s rife right throughout that industry,” explained Rob.
“Workers that are away trying to support their family are coming home and finding that they just don’t fit into their family anymore because they’ve been away for so long.
“Trying to find secure work at home so they can be part of their family – it’s virtually impossible now because everything’s casual, or labour hire.”
Ange and Rob both shared their experiences at the Senate hearing, hoping that the politicians making the decisions that will have such a profound impact on their lives get the message.
For Ange though, there is nothing more important than lived experience.
“Come and live our life, a normal person’s life,” she said.
Right now, that prospect is remote.
For Ange and Rob and millions of other workers like them, stopping this legislation is vital to ensure they’ve got half a chance to live their best lives.
The ACTU will present its submission to the Senate Hearing on the IR Omnibus Bill in Canberra on Friday the 18th February
Here’s how you can support our campaign against this dangerous Bill.
You can’t heal the economy by hurting workers
There can be no cuts to pay or the taking away of worker’s rights
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