New laws, designed to make workplaces fairer and safer for workers, have been introduced by the Albanese Government in Parliament this week.
Over the last decade – under a series of Liberal governments which favoured big business over working Australians – employers have used legal loopholes to erode workers’ rights and keep workers’ pay low.
Unsurprisingly, the employers that often use these loopholes to keep their workers’ conditions below standard, are the same ones that have been gouging prices while Australia is in the throes of the current cost-of-living crisis.
The new laws will go some way in tackling some of the underhanded tricks employers use to cut their own costs while increasing their profits at the expense of workers’ livelihoods.
Some of the common methods favoured by large companies include hiring workers as contractors with their own ABN – so the ‘employer’ has no obligation to provide the contractor with leave entitlements or other rights that a direct employee would have.
Some big businesses, like big name airlines and mining companies, have created labour hire companies that they use to supply themselves with workers. These workers are legally paid less than their directly employed counterparts – as much as 30 per cent less. They can have reduced leave entitlements or less break time on shift.
As well as these more subversive tactics, some employers commit flagrant wage theft, robbing workers of billions of dollars each year.
The new laws have been developed with the intent of closing these and countless other loopholes, and to make it more difficult for employers to exploit workers.
Strengthened health and safety laws, which hold employers to account for avoidable workplace deaths, are also on the table.
So are stronger protections for workplace delegates, who are crucial enforcing workplace rights.
As you’d expect, big business is lining up against these laws.
Sure, they might have lots of money to throw at trite ad campaigns, but the union movement has the power of its incredible members.