Casual workers now have the right to request permanent work after a year of working regular shifts, in a landmark ruling by the Fair Work Commission.
This decision affects workers across several industries including retail, hospitality and childcare.
According to the Australian Council of Trade Unions, 40 per cent of the Australian workforce is in insecure work.
The four forms of insecure work are rolling contracts, labour hire, casual employment, and forcing employees to get ABNs.
Australian Council of Trade Unions Secretary Sally McManus said the Australian Unions have fought for this improvement, but it only plugs up a small hole in a nationwide employment crisis.
“Casual workers earn less wages and lower superannuation,” said Ms McManus.
“Women are more often in casual employment than men, and casualisation contributes to the gender pay gap.
“Too many employers have been abusing the term casual, and use it as a business model to drive down wages.”
However, the Australian Council of Trade Unions is calling for political support to further protect Australian workers by providing them with more stable working conditions.
For example, their proposal to have a standard four-hour minimum shift was rejected, as was the push for casuals to be able to convert their contracts after six-months.
“Business too often organises its workforce and its capital to avoid the protections that were supposed to be there for working people,” said Ms McManus.
“This decision deals with just one of the forms of casualisation that have prevented modern workplaces keeping pace with modern life.”
“Working people with long term regular patterns of work that have been trapped in insecure, casual work contracts can now request permanent positions, but only after 12 months.”
“Permanent positions allow people to plan for the future, to get loans, to budget, and to have a decent quality of living.”
The Australian Industry Group Chief Executive Officer Innes Willox said it was fortunate that most of the unions’ claims were rejected by the Fair Work Commission as they would have “wreaked havoc” on Australia’s labour market.
“Today’s decision will reduce flexibility for some employers in some industries and this is a concern given the tough operating environment that many businesses are experiencing,” said Mr Willox.
“However, importantly, the unions’ main claims have been rejected.
“The FWC has also rejected the unions’ claim for a prohibition on employing more casual or part-time employees until existing employees had been offered more hours.
“This was a loopy idea that is given short shrift in the decision.”
Mr Willox labelled the unions’ claims about the casualisation of the Australian workforce as “bogus,” stating that the Australian Bureau of Statistics show the level of casual employment has stayed 20 per cent of the workforce since 1998.
“Union arguments about the ‘casualisation’ of the Australian workforce are a myth,” he said.
“Even though the Commission’s decision did not favour employers in all respects, importantly the unions’ most damaging claims have been rejected.”