Unions have signalled they will campaign for significant legislative changes to reverse the casualisation of the Australian workforce.
In an interview with the Australian, the Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary, Sally McManus, said workforce casualisation would be a key priority for the union movement next year.
“One of the key things we want to change for working people is turning around or reversing the casualisation of jobs,” she said.
McManus said she would lobby Labor to support a new definition of casual work, which would include workers who have a “reasonable expectation of ongoing work” and who are completing regular shifts.
Unions also want legislative changes to give casual workers the ability to automatically convert to permanent employment after six months with the same employer.
Brendan O’Connor, the shadow workplace relations minister, said Labor was committed to examining the casualisation of the Australian workforce and the ACTU’s proposals.
He said “something has to be done”, and indicated the need for an objective test to ensure casual employment was being used for proper purposes.
“Too often now we see people working as their main job in what employers are deeming to be casual, even when they work for years on end,” he said. “For that reason, Labor is committed to examining this.”
Industry groups have immediately dismissed the proposals, saying they are not new and had already been considered and rejected by the Fair Work Commission.
Stephen Smith, the Australian Industry Group’s head of national workplace relations policy, said the union’s propositions, if adopted, would cause “enormous disruption”.
“There’s about 12.5 million people in the workforce, there’s more than 2.5 million casuals,” Smith told Guardian Australia. “So any move to restrict casual employment would cause enormous disruption to employers, employees, and the broader community.”
Smith dismissed the notion that…