The ACTU is ramping up its campaign against insecure work with a new report showing Australia is approaching a point where half of all workers will have insecure or casual jobs.
The Greens are weighing in too, wedging Labor on the issue. Adam Bandt will introduce legislation which aims to provide permanent worker protections and benefits to those without permanent work. .
The Coalition has repeatedly denied the claim by the secretary of the ACTU, Sally McManus, that insecure work is growing.
The small and family business minister, Craig Laundy, said ABS figures show the casual workforce rate has remained largely steady for the past two decades.
But the union counts insecure work as casual workers, those on contracts within the “gig economy” such as Uber drivers, and those employed by labour hire organisations.
It puts that number at closer to 40%, and its report shows Australia sits behind only the Netherlands and Switzerland when it comes to the total share of non-standard employment among OECD countries.
Although the government is celebrating meeting its target of creating one million jobs in five years, a benchmark set by the former prime minister, Tony Abbott, in September 2013, the ACTU said only 60% of Australia’s total employment is made up of “standard jobs”, leaving four million workers in what it defines as insecure work.
“Insecure work is the biggest issue facing Australian workers,” McManus said.
“It runs through everything. When you are not secure in your job, you have [fewer] rights, greater stress. It affects your everyday life and that of your family. This has to change.
“We have a simple decision to make: do we want the next generation to never know what it is like to have a paid holiday, or do we think they deserve the same, or better rights that their parents and grandparents enjoyed?”
Since taking up the reins at the ACTU in 2017, McManus has made combating insecure work a priority, pushing for an overhaul of workplace rules, which would limit the use of casual employees, as well as putting safeguards in place for those working within the gig economy.
She also wants to see legislation to have casual workers move to permanent.
Bandt will move to introduce legislation giving powers under the Fair Work Act to extend to insecure workers, as defined by the unions, including contractors.
The bill, which will fail without crossbench or Labor party support, wants all workers to be entitled to minimum standards set by the Fair Work Commission.