2023 has kicked off with a bang as we usher in the first instalment of sweeping reforms to existing industrial relations laws coming into effect as a part of the Secure Jobs, Better Pay Bill.
These changes have been a long time coming and are the result of union members campaigning to ensure workers, no matter who they are, are treated fairly.
Better protections for migrant workers
For university graduate Felisia*, being stuck on a temporary visa made the job search after finishing her degree incredibly difficult.
And when she did find a job as a marketing manager, she was underpaid from day one.
“I was paid $15 per hour but at that stage I was happy because I had a job,” she said.
As of 7 January 2023, employers across Australia will be charged a hefty fine of up to $16,500 if found advertising for jobs at a rate below the minimum wage.
This comes after Unions NSW launched an investigation into incidents of wage theft experienced by migrant workers. Their findings, published in this report, were horrifying.
Out of 7,000 foreign language job ads surveyed, over 60 per cent were found to be advertising illegal rates of pay – that is, below the minimum wage for their respective industries.
Dodgy recruiters and employers disproportionately target migrant workers. Many of the workers who respond to these ads are unaware that the rate of pay or working conditions are unfair or illegal – or precarious visa statuses leave them too afraid to speak up out of fear of deportation.
These new laws (hard fought, hard won thanks to a massive campaign across the union movement) seek to shift the onus onto bosses by creating real harsh consequences for wage theft and will go a long way in ensuring that recruiting employers do the right thing.
Felisia explained it was fear of risking her visa that kept her quiet about sexual harassment and bullying at work.
But joining a union completely transformed her confidence at work. “With my previous employer, I didn’t know what my rights were at the time. I didn’t know I was being harassed or bullied. You don’t know what you don’t know.”
Secure Jobs, Better Pay: A timeline
After tireless campaigning from union members last year, the Secure Jobs, Better Pay Bill is taking full force.
Secure Jobs, Better Pay relates to a series of legislative changes slated to take place gradually throughout the year. Outlined below are some of these changes and when you can expect them.
We have already had some great changes for workers kick into action. Pay secrecy clauses and zombie agreements have been slayed once and for all. Pay secrecy perpetuated the gender pay gap and zombie agreements kept workers on abysmally low pay. No one is sad to see them go.
The Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) will finally be abolished. This will give building workers the opportunity to have their grievances heard by the Fair Work Commission (FWC), rather than a politicised and biased organisation that has routinely favoured bad employers.
The Fair Work Act will be amended to expressly prohibit sexual harassment in the workplace. This date will also mark the inauguration of two expert panels in pay equity and the community sector within the FWC.
This date is also when most of the multi-employer bargaining reforms will come into effect, giving workers far greater power to get wages moving again after a decade of setbacks.
This is when it really kicks into gear. New laws due to take force from this date include:
- the FWC will have jurisdiction to mediate disputes when workers seek an extension to their unpaid parental leave allowance
- an expansion on flexible working arrangements for all workers
- workers who are pregnant or experiencing family violence will be able to file flexible work requests
- The Registered Organisations Commission will be abolished, reinstating powers to the FWC.
The National Construction Industry Forum will be established. The new financial year will also see the maximum amount awarded in small claims court rise from $20,000 to $100,000.
Limits will be placed on fixed-term contracts, with the FWC given power to intervene and mediate these disputes. This is one strong step forward in addressing insecure work in Australia.
Needless to say, we welcome these changes with open arms. For the latest updates on Secure Jobs, Better Pay, watch this space and join your union today.
*Name has been changed.
New year, new protections for job hunters