Last year, union members rallied behind and won the first part of the Closing Loopholes Bill. This year members have done it again, helping get the Bill across the line in full.
Two of the biggest changes involve expanding minimum work rights to gig economy workers, and creating a pathway for casuals to become permanent.
These laws will improve the lives of millions of workers, now and into the future.
A fairer deal for gig economy workers
Would you work in a job for less than minimum wage, without any paid sick leave and little to no job security?
This has been the concerning reality that confronts Australia’s 250,000-plus gig economy workers, many of whom work in food and service delivery.
Gig economy workers are particularly vulnerable, working well beyond full-time hours every week just to make ends meet and facing incredible pressure to make deliveries on time.
Most have no choice but to work during peak times, no matter the conditions or their health, in order to make a living. In fact, about 80 per cent of these workers depend on gig jobs for survival, and nearly half earn below minimum wage.
In Victoria alone, between 2016 and 2022, Victoria Police recorded 917 incidents where delivery riders were involved in accidents, including two deaths. And this number is only rising year on year.
Part two of the Closing Loopholes Bill includes a raft of changes that will extend minimum working rights and protections to gig economy workers.
Rapid food and delivery services aren’t going away, so this is an essential reform that ensures gig economy workers receive the same benefits other workers do and have the same fundamental rights.
Meaningful pathways to permanent work for casuals
The Bill includes reforms that introduce a commonsense definition of casual employment, and a fairer pathway for an eligible employee to choose to become permanent.
This means more choice for casual workers about whether they want to stay casual or request a permanent job.
For many workers, and especially those on the front-line of the cost-of-living crisis, these changes will mean much-needed job security and access to paid annual and sick leave.
Despite what big business campaigning concocted, these changes will not force casuals to convert to permanent: for those workers who prefer casual work, the Bill enshrines their right to remain casual.
Big wins for working people
This is a huge victory for working people that was only possible due to the ongoing campaign work of dedicated union members.
The first part of the Closing Loopholes Bill was a monumental achievement that won vital changes for working people, from closing loopholes in the labour hire industry, to criminalising wage theft and industrial manslaughter.
Part two is just as important, securing better rights for Australia’s most vulnerable and lowest-paid gig economy and casual workers.
If you’re not a member of your union already, make 2024 the year you stand with nearly two million workers around Australia who are driving real, positive change in workplaces nation-wide.