Casual employees who have been with the same employer for a year and in daily shifts for six months must be given permanent jobs in the light of the federal government’s recent workplace legislation aimed at addressing job insecurity.
On Monday, the Morrison Government will announce a revised legislative concept of casual employment among a range of steps intended to offer greater certainty to the workforce following the coronavirus pandemic.
There are 2.6 million casual workers in Australia-the sector hardest affected by the outbreak of COVID-19-with 1.35 million of them working for their employers on a daily basis for 12 months or more.
Changes in workplace relations would also resolve the double dipping” issue created by a recent Federal Court ruling that found that some “casual employees were entitled to demand both annual leave and casual loads normally worth 25% of their salary.
But the new laws are in the process of battle, with Australian Trade Union Council President Sally McManus arguing that they would only “entrench” casual jobs.
Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter said that with so many people either out of work or working fewer hours, the government could not stand by as employers were delaying hiring decisions due to continuing uncertainty about the legal status of casual jobs.
“Our definition of casual employment is likely broader than some business groups had wanted, unions are likely to say we should have made the definition broader still, suggesting to me that we have struck the right balance on this issue and delivered a fair and equitable outcome that will benefit both workers and employers,” he said.
On Wednesday, Mr Porter will bring an omnibus bill to the Federal Parliament, which will also include a more flexible understanding of the Better Off Overall Test by the Fair Work Commission, a simplification of the payment of loaded rates for employees, and criminal penalties for employers who are grossly, imprudently and intentionally underpaying workers.
The planned change of land between certain union and employer positions by offering a new legal concept of casual workers, who usually get an additional 25% compensation but go without sick leave and paid vacations.
They limit casual jobs to workers who do not know when or how much more work they will get from their superiors, as set out “objectively” by the courts. That aligns with union demands to limit casual work to “genuine” casuals and cuts through some employer’s claims that anyone branded casual and paying as such is one.
The amendments recommend that if an employee refuses the initial offer to convert from casual to permanent employment, a further right to apply will be available every six months as long as they remain eligible. However the employer can decide not to make an offer or to accept a request from the employee if they have appropriate grounds not to do so in compliance with the arrangements defined by the Fair Work Commission.
Staff who have been at work for 12 months and have been working on a daily schedule of six hours will receive the bid. Employers, however, have an escape hatch if moving to a permanent position would entail a drastic shift in the working hours or would be unreasonable for the company.
Australian Business Council Chief Executive Jennifer Westacott, who was part of the union and employer talks, said that it would make a “enormous difference” to the problems she had posed for a long time.
“Nobody ever expected radical reform because radical reform would have been divisive reform. We need to move beyond that,” she said.
Ms. McManus said it was a “huge missed opportunity” to start making work better and turn the amount of casual and precarious jobs around.
“The proposal makes it almost impossible for casual workers to convert to permanent work as if an employer is unreasonable or does not offer them permanent employment, there is little they can do about it,” she said.
But the efforts of the union movement to talk with one voice about the government’s reforms were dealt a blow on Sunday, when one section of the 150,000 members of the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union launched a blistering assault on another.
Dave Noonan, Secretary of the Construction Division of the Union, which runs counter to its mining and manufacturing divisions, indicated that Tony Maher, Secretary of Mining, had made a secret deal” with Mr Porter to draw up new legislation that would allow unions like CFMMEU to divide.
“The government will use this bill to divert attention from the Industrial Relations Omnibus Bill it is putting to Parliament next week, which is the beginning of a march back to WorkChoices,” said Mr Noonan, whose block have a majority in the union’s national organs.
Mr Maher and Mr Noonan fell over John Setka, the union’s Victorian building division secretary, who pleaded guilty to bullying his wife last year and, his supporters claim, did not receive enough support from the mining and manufacturing divisions.
Under the rule, merged unions cannot return to their previous separate sections after many years as a single organisation, which Mr Porter revealed plans to amend last week.
Mr Maher said that the de-amalgamation clauses should be more workable.