Update: Government entrenches job insecurity with workplace law “Omnibus Bill”

ACTU President Michele O’Neil and ACTU Secretary Sally McManus address the media in Canberra

Working people in unions have successfully stopped many of the worst aspects of the Morrison Government’s anti-worker “Omnibus Bill” from becoming law.

Of the five key elements of the dangerous and extreme Bill, only one element was passed.

The anti-worker elements of the “Omnibus Bill” that were prevented include changes to Greenfields agreements, bargaining and the basic rights of part-time workers. The Morrison Government decided to remove parts of their own proposed laws that would have increased rights for victims of wage-theft.

The negative element that passed includes a new, worse, definition of casual employment, and reduced liability for employers who deliberately misclassify casual workers.

In effect, employers will have even more power to designate a worker as a “casual”, with fewer rights than permanent employees, even if the work performed is regular and permanent.

The amended “Omnibus Bill” passed the Senate 35 votes to 33 on Thursday afternoon, with One Nation and Centre Alliance’s Stirling Griff voting in favour of the attack on working people.

Griff’s decision was at odds with fellow Centre Alliance member Rebekha Sharkie who, along with independent senators Rex Patrick and Jacqui Lambie, joined Labor and the Greens on the side of unions and workers – ultimately stripping the bill of all but one of its five provisions.

The remaining part of the Bill that passed the Senate is deeply concerning for Australia’s more than 2 million casual workers, whose already insecure work has now been only further entrenched by the Morrison Government.

“What they’ve done is overturned the rights of casual workers,” ACTU Secretary Sally McManus told media in the halls of Parliament House following the vote.

“[The Morrison government has] stripped long term casuals of rights that they do have; rights that they have won over years in court and meaning, into the future, employers will be able to label people casual – even when they’re not.”

“The people that are responsible for this … the LNP, of course, also One Nation and Centre Alliance, I certainly know that working people will know this when it comes to the next election, that these people in the end did not have their best interest at heart.” said Sally McManus.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison signalled his government is unlikely to further pursue the defeated provisions.

“I am a practical person, too. That means if this Senate is saying they don’t wish to support those measures, then we will have to consider that in terms of how we go forward because I will send them other things to approve,” he said.

The stripped down version of the “Omnibus Bill” will return to the House of Representatives next week.

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Date Published: 18/03/2021 Category: Industrial Relations Workers rights

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