Published: 05/08/2021
Category: On The Job
Published: 05/08/2021
Category: On The Job

Australia’s forgotten army of people trapped in insecure work face greater uncertainty and exploitation following a decision of the High Court on Wednesday to lock in exploitative work practices across the Australian economy.

The Workpac Ltd v Rossato decision by the High Court overturned the CFMEU’s successful Federal Court case from November 2020 which agreed that miner Robert Rossato – who was deemed a casual employee despite working in a full-time capacity for an extended period – was entitled to the same entitlements (sick pay, annual leave, etc.) as full-time workers.

In March, the Morrison Government changed the law to introduce a definition of casual employment to the Fair Work Act. It was a move that effectively cut off rights that other ‘permanent casuals’ might have had on the strength of the Rossato Federal Court decision.

Following Morrison’s attack on workers’ rights, the High Court decision has further highlighted Australia’s insecure work crisis where you can be doing the same work as the person next to you, but not enjoy the same conditions of employment.

ACTU Secretary Sally McManus said the decision was another hammer blow for workers, many of whom are already buckling under the strain of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The outcome of today’s decision is yet another blow for many hard-working Australians, who have nothing left to give after 18 months of economic hell,” said McManus.

“Workers across the country are struggling with no paid leave entitlements, no confidence about where their next shift is coming from and no job security.

“Insecure work is making it harder than ever for families to make ends meet. For example, casuals employed in mining are paid $30 per hour less than their permanent co-workers, and still they have no rights to paid sick leave or holidays.”

The ACTU Secretary said the Morrison Government must finally follow through on its own promise to crack down on workforce casualisation that has led to rampant worker exploitation by labour hire companies who have established an employment racket – where people are working as ‘permanent casuals’ – full-time jobs without proper pay and conditions.

“Instead of fixing this situation, earlier this year Scott Morrison passed new laws to make it harder for workers to secure permanent jobs, giving the green light to rampant casualisation, rolling out the red carpet to dodgy labour hire operators and making a bad situation even worse,” McManus said.

“Covid has shown us that casualisation is a weakness for our country – with one-in-three workers stranded with no sick leave during this one-in-a-century pandemic. This is a health hazard for the community and a threat to the Australian economy.

“Mr Morrison must today commit to new laws to crack down on the casualisation of Australian jobs, smash unscrupulous labour hire operators with their exploitative “permanent casual” model of employment and help working Australians secure permanent jobs with proper pay and conditions including guaranteed hours, holiday pay and sick pay.”

CFMEU mining and energy division General President Tony Maher spoke with ‘On the Job’. He said that the continuation of the insecure work racket run by labour hire companies has devastating, real world consequences for workers.

Read more: Labour hire companies are achieving success on the backs of working people

“We’ve had coal miners work for 10 years, working full rosters just like a permanent all year round. They don’t get leave, they can’t get a mortgage, and they get paid 30 or 40 per cent less than the people they work with,” Maher said.

“It’s a disgraceful set of circumstances. The political effort to deny them some justice has been basically the establishment flexing their muscles. That’s what’s resulted in this.”

Having been rebuffed by the courts, Maher said his focus was now on the upcoming federal election and ensuring that Australians elect a government that is prepared to enact laws to end the insecure work racket.

“I’d say the only choice now is legislative change. And the only thing that will fix the dire predicament of ‘permanent casual’ mineworkers is same work same pay legislation,” said Maher.

“In the next federal election there will be a parade of political parties claiming to represent the interests of coal miners. The Morrison Government has had their turn. They changed the laws in respect to the definition of casuals. They got One Nation on side to pass it in the Senate and it’s only made the situation worse.

“One Nation are just terrible pretenders on this. They claim to fix the problem, but they don’t understand industrial law and have only made the problem worse.

“Same work, same pay is now the policy of the Labor Party, so we’ll be campaigning to make that a big election issue.”

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High Court falls for Morrison’s insecure work scam

High Court falls for Morrison’s insecure work scam