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Change the Rules – Casual and Insecure Work

Luke Hilakari, Secretary Victorian Trades Hall Council, tweeted on Budget Night, “I want the right to bargain for a fair pay rise. I’m not asking for a tax cut or a handout from Government. I want rights, not bribes.” As we move into the campaign period of the election, it is important to stay focused on why so many people are doing it tough and why a Government election bribe won’t fix it. This article looks at one aspect of why – casual and insecure work.

A War on Words – Casual Employment

In Australia, we accept the term ‘casual work’ as synonymous with work that is not full-time permanent or part-time permanent. That means, that the worker has no control over hours they work, they get no entitlements such as sick leave, carers/family leave, holiday pay or public holiday pay.

One of the key identifiers for people who use the term casual work is that it means to them that the worker does not have job security. An employer can dismiss workers at any time. They may work at a per job rate, that then an hourly rate. They do not have the security of a permanent job. Their job is either irregular or the worker is not there for the long term.

Most Australians don’t use the following terms to differentiate from casual employment; precarious, gig worker, seasonal worker, fixed term contract or labour hire worker.

Do the semantics matter? To stats lovers, yes. To the regular person on the street? No.

However, the Government has already started the War on Words. They are being very pedantic about what the term “casual means’ to try to make themselves look good.

Liberals Harking Back – Nothing Unusual About That!

The Liberal Party are harking back to the times of leg warmers, fingerless gloves and big hair to hold on to their definition of casual. Their definition only speaks to casual as a subset of insecure work. It does not include zero-hours contracts, labour hire, outsourcing. The Liberals are merely bracketing this group who receive loading on their hourly pay and do not receive sick leave or holiday pay.

The Liberal party will insist that ‘Casual has remained steady” over the last 20 years. However, that is open to debate. It is up to each and every one of us to question the semantics of the Liberal Party every day – but especially heading into an election.

The Fact Check article linked below explains there is no formal definition or complete data sets of insecure work and it is open to interpretation.

The Liberals use the term interchangeably with ‘insecure work’ where the ACTU says that casual work is a subset of insecure work and is work “that which provides workers with little social and economic security, and little control over their working lives”.

Unlike the Liberals, the ACTU live in the modern day era of Uber and Labour Hire along with all of us. Casual work in today’s terms has risen to approximately 40%. Importantly, more than half the workforce will soon be in insecure work if we do not vote the Liberal’s out.

One in four workers in Australia is in casual employment.

Here is @FriendlyJordies take on why it is hard to find a good job in  Australia.

 

Casual Work in Australia

The Parliamentary report into the Characteristics and use of casual employees in Australia provides analysis on the state of casual work in Australia.

One interesting statistic to note is the change of casual work share by gender. This is particularly important to note because of the semantics used by the Liberal party.

The Liberal party likes to paint casual work as something that women need to balance their home-work life and to help hubby pay the bills. Maybe even to afford to buy herself a nice soft dressing gown to wear as she merrily participates as one of the housewives of Australia doing the ironing.

And like everything they hark back to, it is true. Well that is, if you are still walking around singing “I’m too Sexy for my shirt, too sexy for my shirt, so sexy it hurts” and it is 1992!

Casualisation of Work by Gender

However, what is quite unsexy is the rise of insecure work for men from 1992 to 2016. If the story of the Liberals is believed to be true and women are the secondary wage earner and men the primary wage earners, then the following also must be true. The erosion of our Industrial Relations system in Australia is an insidious contagion that now attacks the Primary worker regardless of gender.

Is this the attack on Men’s Rights some of the ragged dinosaurs in the Liberals and associated nutjobbery are always carrying on about? If so, the Liberals are the ones carrying the pitchforks.

This leaves both parties of a relationship in a vulnerable position and also, regardless of gender, if you are single. When you have to budget to pay bills, to plan ahead for anything in life, to apply for a car loan, house loan, white goods, save to fix the car and even to save for birthday and Christmas.

WorkChoices – Never Ever Forget

My mantra has been for years – WorkChoices – Never, Ever Forget! I mean, how could we forget when we now have WorkChoices by stealth. We got rid of Howard and we have allowed Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison to implement by stealth what Rudd killed.

The core of WorkChoices was to tip the balance of power back to the employer. One of the biggest aims was to turn hard working Australian people into disposable commodities at the lowest possible price.

The next biggest aim was to destroy the union movement by forcing everyone to sign up to Individual Agreements. They even tried threatening University workers with pulling University funding if workers chose the collective agreement over an AWA. In the same way, they attacked Universities, they also attacked Health workers.

WorkChoices by Stealth

What we have now is WorkChoices by Stealth. Above all, casualisation and insecure work is a systemic issue. The Liberals have brought this about intentionally. This is no accident. The current Liberal Government, enabling casual and insecure employment means employers hold all the power. Employers can dispose of workers at any time and they can be used as a disposable commodity at the lowest cost.

The forced implementation of AWA’s and tying AWA’s to Government funding was my first real protest. I was worried I would lose my job but I damn well ticked “Collective Agreement.” I was absolutely elated when Rudd won for this reason.

I will never ever forget the worry every single day. Would we have no protection from dismissal? Perhaps we would lose permanency and we would be casual workers tomorrow. Would our jobs be reclassified to lower paid work? John Howard made sure we could do nothing about it because he created new rules. He created rules that should be broken.

This is not a new tactic. The same tactic was used in the great shearer’s strike of 1891 and it will be used by Liberals if they are in power until the end of time.

Then if Nordenfelt and Gatling won’t bring you to your knees, 
We’ll find a law,” the squatters said, “that’s made for times like these.” (The Ballad of 1891)

 

Howard’s Anti-Worker Dream is the New Normal

The thing is, it was such a scary time for me because I know the feeling of secure employment. It is something I expected. Something I relied on. That was until the spectre of Howard loomed large and terrified our days and made us all sleep uneasy.

There are thousands and thousands of workers who have never, ever known the feeling of secure full-time work. Howard’s anti-worker dream is now a young worker’s ‘normal’ under Scott Morrison. That is why the Change the Rules campaign is vital to our social cohesion and standard of living in Australia.

Never knowing the feeling of a secure full-time job is absolutely unacceptable in Australia. Absolutely unacceptable.

I am really angry that we are still fighting the same battle more than a decade later
for us and for our children because of Howard’s anti-worker ‘children’ – Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison.

Change The Rules – Stop Forced Casual Work

The Change The Rules Campaign details two important rule changes to give casualised workers a better future.

Stopping Workers Being Forced into Casual Work

Employers will no longer be able to call someone a casual if the job is not genuinely casual. Too many employers have been converting permanent jobs into casual jobs. Labor has committed to stopping this.

Give on-going casuals the choice of becoming permanent

If someone has worked regularly for over 12 months and would like to convert to permanent work with the rights that go along with it, they would have the right to do so. It would be their choice.

Change the Rules for Secure Work

Too many of us are in casual or fixed term work. Australia has one of the highest rates of insecure work in the world. But the Morrison Government doesn’t even believe that insecure work is a problem. Other political parties have instead signed up to change the rules. They have committed to stopping jobs being casualised and giving casual workers better rights, as well as stopping employers bypassing local workers to use and abuse visa workers. (changetherules.org.au)

Change The Rules Campaign

Join the biggest movement for workers in Australia right now. Join the Change The Rules Campaign. Don’t forget to join your union. If you want to fight the Liberals, do the one thing they hate and one thing they can’t break – stand in solidarity.

I will leave you with my favourite Change the Rules Tweet today. This tweet has an important heartfelt message and it goes to the heart of this article.

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19 comments

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  1. New England Cocky

    Excellent review of the so-called “work” situation, thank you. Howard was without doubt the greatest recent disaster in Australia political history, along with his little mate Peter “Sell the national gold stocks” Costello, although Toxic RAbbott and Scat Moriscum would challenge him for ineptitude.

  2. Bert

    Another problem is fewer people are working longer and longer hours. A lot of jobs, even permanent rely on regular overtime to make a decent wage. Whatever happened to 8 hours work, 8 hours recreation and 8 hours rest?

  3. Terence Mills

    The increase in casual work and the mythology of the freedom that the gig-economy brings to the worker is that with all the other insults to our intelligence is the so called ultimate liberation : you are self-employed, you are no longer a worker whoopee-do you can rejoice in low pay rates, no paid sick leave, no paid annual leave, no superannuation, no job security (and no access to a home loan because of your job insecurity) and no workers compensation.

    The casualisation of the workforce has been sold as the liberty of the working classes : work the hours that fit into your lifestyle, be free of the drudgery of going to work every day, enjoy the leisure opportunities that casual work offers you, more time for family and loved-ones…………..

    It’s all a con !

  4. Andy56

    Yes, i too have been caught up in casualisation. Last four jobs , over 15yrs, have been that way. Sure they start out giving you work but you always know that 1/ your dispensable and 2/ no entitlements like sickies ,holidays or super. Your forced into incorporating or your just a contractor . And you know full well its to distance you from the employer, plausible deniability . Shows a total lack of respect for workers. Which the young ones are thankfully reciprocating. Nothing to lose gives you great strength were as if you have a goal, you tend to keep going on the same path. If you Got a mortgage, you have no real choices.
    Currently , i dont know what i am. No sickies or holidays but i get overtime and super. But no work no pay is wearing a bit thin when i get a day of no work every fortnight. Hard to reconcile the boss lives in a millionaires mansion while i struggle to get by. Thankfully for me, once my ccard is paid off, i am out of here. Casualisation is hard for the people in it. If you have a fulltime oldfashioned job with benefits, your now one of the lucky ones.
    I once had a conversation with my boss and he mentioned union workers being overpaid on a $100,000 on job sites. His venom was ferocious. How dare they. Not clearly understanding that all four workers present would jump at that opportunity. Clearly capitalism works best if the boss makes money and workers are paid far less, lol. Not to mention the ” entitled mentality”.” This country needs a recession so you will come begging to me for a job”. I kid you not!

  5. Bert

    Why people won’t join a union has me stuffed. As the old slogan goes “the workers united will never be defeated” or alternatively “unity is strength”

  6. andy56

    Bert, i can guarantee that if i did join a union i will be looking for a job. Its no longer so clear cut. If i really really had a choice i would. You obviously dont understand the predicament people are in, especially at my age , 62. THERE ARE NO JOBS OUT THERE.

  7. Matters Not

    Certainly a bleak future and it’s not confined to Australia. Indeed it’s worse elsewhere but that should matter not.

    In my whole working life I was always an active member of a union (Branch Secretary, Council Representative, Conference Delegate, Executive Member, Researcher. Organiser and so on) – until they wouldn’t let me remain a member because of my changed employment circumstances. Yet my offspring are not union members.

    One, like andy56. wouldn’t have a job if he became a union member. Organisations these days tend to be somewhat smaller – not like the factories and workplaces of the past. Thus the potential to be part of a ‘mass’ is greatly reduced. You are now on your own. Yes you can strike but because you are on your own, you have no real, united labor power. That’s the sad reality. And I don’t have realistic solutions. Government is, in a sense, our only hope. Yet we tend to make government our enemy – as they do in the US. We cut our own throats.

  8. andy56

    Everything comes down to how much money you need to survive and have some life enjoyment. Currently we are in a transition phase cause the deeper we get into this neoliberal/IPA dumb as shit form of capitalism, the more unrest it will encourage. ie more Trumps and Hansons.
    The whole welfare system needs a rethink. It wastes more money than solving problems. The credit card for the dole up north costs $13,000 per card. What a person on welfare could do with that money makes me angry. Gets them out of destitution for a start. The for -profit employment agencies get fucking even MORE money. Its criminal in my books.
    Super is another area. Tax it on exit only and allow what ever people want to put in up to 2million. Currently its taxed on input and earnings, no fucking wonder it doesnt move much.
    Why welfare you say, well its tied to the “new” economic situation which we face. Lack of adequately paid employment. It may be cheaper for us as a nation to pay people a decent wage on work for the dole. Do the basic maths and you will see its not far fetched.
    Basic dole $15,000, basic centerlink overheads per person $15,000. ( thats a guestimate cause the real figure cant be found). If you see that employment agencies get around $19,000 per client and the creditcard dole costs $13,000 per client, then the economics look pretty good for this idea.
    If you know you have a safety net, then you can tell your boss your joining a union and his threats are hollow.
    Its also about time we had more sophisticated data on unemployment than 1hr per week. Its criminal that the department of statistics still in 2019 dont have anything more informative. Give me the $1b they use and i can guartantee better information all round. What are they? Primary school kids? Dont pay these monkeys more than they can eat !

  9. andy56

    look guys i may vent and all but there are people out there doing it much much harder than i am. For example, a mate has a pacemaker. Workcare wont cover him so in practice , he will never work again. YET,YET he is on newstart. WTF goes on with our fuckwit leaders? And he wants to work !!!

  10. Alcibiades

    Change the Laws! too. Otherwise it’s tinkering at the edges, IMV.

    Criminalise all white collar crime. Underpay/Steal wages, superannuation, entitlements on more than a single one off administrative error – deliberately create a structure to evade responsibility for employees/contractors entitlements – corporate tax avoidance & evasion – Go to Gaol as the responsible entity. Hard time & criminal records.

    Our entire society has been fundamentally skewed to enable business & corporate exploitation & corrupt & criminal conduct to run rampant without any meaningful consequences.

    Fear, engendered by all of this, creates a fertile permissive soil for it’s tendrils to spread everywhere. Authoritarian laws that persecute, punish & permit the destruction of whistle-blowers is by no accident.

    Gaol the bustards!

    Uber(Pirates/Raiders) & kind, known criminal franchisers, & the Banks would be good place to make a start.

  11. andy56

    Kronomex, it reminds me of the saying, “repeating the same thing over and over again expecting a different result is insanity”. Your destitute? well we will fix that, cut off both feet. If that dont work, cut off both hands.
    Its ideology gone mad. No amount of reason or facts will turn these cretins.

  12. andy56

    dont know about UBER pirates and raiders. Taxi licence worth $500,000 wasnt a good idea either. But yea unrestricted greed certainly needed to be checked early. The cost of a licence and low paid drivers certainly opened the door for UBER.

  13. Alcibiades

    Andy56,
    Uber drivers are even worse off than taxi drivers employed by the license holder were. And that will only get worse, much worse. The ‘GiG’ business model exists to illegally evade & avoid existing laws & regulations, thence undermine them by de facto permission to do so, to create an exploitative business model niche that was otherwise illegal, whilst spending tens of millions on targeted lobbying, targeted propaganda PR & ‘baksheesh’. A business IPO’d for $102Billion, that declares it will likely never make a profit ?! It is not a business, IMV, it’s a criminal enterprise masquerading as one, a deliberately & carefully constructed legal fiction, and far from alone.

    Taxi firms fail to get Uber banned in Brussels

    Court rules Uber isn’t liable for benefits such as holiday or sickness pay…

    That followed a ruling earlier in January that restated Uber’s non-licensed POP service should not be allowed in Brussels…

    Uber was forced to scale back its POP service in Brussels in 2015 and has faced a barrage of complaints across the EU over recent years over whether it is a transport service, as rival taxi operators argue, or merely a platform, as it presents itself.

  14. andy56

    Alcibiades, i am not arguing your point, i agree with you. But if taxi licences werent such a lucrative commodity and drivers were paid a reasonable amount, UBER would never have taken off. It should have been a nominal fee for a licence ($100) and a permanent job for the driver. Who would want to be an UBER driver if you could get a permanent job as a taxi driver.?

  15. Alcibiades

    Agreed, it should have been, yet, was not.

    That does not justify nor negate the very nature of Uber & kind, nor their supposed Gig economy PR ‘model’. And once they obtain a monopoly, & are legitimised, they will through their ‘app’, squeeze & squeeze, ever tighter their ‘partners’, who are entirely without power or rights or protections, as so called independent casual contractors. Nothing more than a sophisticated exploitative criminal scheme, IMV. And the wider societal consequences as others follow a similar model in other sectors ?

  16. Terence Mills

    All is not lost :

    “The Court of Appeal in the UK has upheld a ruling that Uber drivers are workers, in the latest round of a landmark gig economy legal battle that has implications for hundreds of thousands of precarious workers in the UK.

    Judges agreed with two lower tribunals that Uber was wrong to classify its drivers as independent contractors. Under the ruling, drivers will be entitled to basic rights, such as holiday pay and the minimum wage.”

    Uber has said they are going to appeal this decision and the outcome of this case will be critical to the whole argument of who is a worker (employee) and who is an independent self employed contractor in the gig economy. It will also be influential on how our courts determine the situation.

  17. Alcibiades

    For almost 40 years it has been a fundamental objective of Neoliberalism (Liberal & Labor) to create a permanent pool of unemployment, & as a matter of policy to maintain that pool at ~5%. And a statistical fiction since John Howard had the ABS define ’employment’ as 1/hr per week!

    It is classic divide & conquer, & by design disruptive of societal, community & workplace goodwill & cohesion. The purpose of a permanent unemployment pool as economic policy[1] from the beginning through to today is to ensure the currently employed are willing to tolerate & accept exploitative, punitive & demeaning conditions of work. For fear they will be made unemployed too. Dog-eat-dog.

    It is no coincidence unemployed social security benefits have not been increased by any government for 25 years now, concurrent with the unemployment policy. It is no coincidence that real employment schemes & programs 30 years ago, came to be replaced with the corrupt farce of for profit job providers, who do neither, other then demean & punish. A convicted criminal in Gaol will exist with better sustenance than the unemployed, & properly housed.

    It is no coincidence that the unemployed are forced to accept unjust employment conditions, for fear of having to struggle to literally survive on it. Unsurprising wage suppression, forced casualisation, short term rolling ‘individual contracts; under employment & excess unpaid hours are the norm, the reality, from real fear of it.

    ACOSS & Per Capita present the actual facts that for every eight enforced unemployed there is only one possible job(Policy). Have a go, get a go ?! When for 40 years government & Reserve Bank of Australia economic policy has been ’cause Neoliberalism to ensure seven out of every eight unemployed cannot obtain employment. And the rort of imported exploited ‘skilled’ workers on 457 visas, so businesses & corporations can suppress skilled wages & breach/evade their obligations to train ?

    30 years now, not just the last six, of soaring worker productivity & corporate profits hand-in-glove, whilst real wages have flatlined over the same period. With the mere stroke of a pen, we could ensure 100% employment, consequentially decent wages, rights & conditions. And the benefits of doing so would flow on throughout the local economy & community, thence more widely Australia & society.

    Will Labor (Neoliberal lite) do that Trish Corry ? Reject the demonstrably proven fraud of Neoliberalism for 40 years now, or just tweak around the fringes ?

    [1] Fixed unemployment & Ultra low wage growth isn’t accidental. It is the intended outcome of decades of bi-partisan government policies

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