JOB INSECURITY STRESS
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The current Australian minimum wage is not a living wage, and it no longer keeps people out of poverty.
Forty percent of working people are in insecure work – either in casual work, dependent on contracting, in labour hire, getting too few hours, or in the gig economy.
Workers need the tools and power to win fair pay rises.
What can be done about Job Insecurity?
12.5 million Australians are now in the workforce, however, millions of these workers fall into employment categories that offer little job and financial security.
There are almost 6000 Labour Hire firms operating across Australia. 1.023 million Australians are paid through labour hire firms or employment agencies.
Over a million Australian Workers are classified as Independent Contractors – with few superannuation rights or other entitlements.
The rise of temporary workers (labour hire or temp workers) and independent contractors have meant more and more workers are vulnerable to the day to day oscillations of the market and are limited in their entitlements.
The plight of the ‘gig economy’ such as Uber drivers have no certainty over their income which is determined by the day to day (or sometimes) hour to hour availability of work.
The problem for independent contractors and temp workers is these workers have little access to the basic workplace entitlements such as personal leave, holiday and family leave, penalty rates and superannuation.
‘Sham Contracting” which is an arrangement which nefarious employers hire workers as a contractor, despite the employment relationship resembling that of a traditional employee is now common in industries not always associated with high rates of contracting (such as clerical workers, healthcare professionals, carers, even restaurant workers).
Workers in these categories are often prey to the case of ‘risk-shifting’ where employers shift a significant portion of the risk of doing business to labour itself.
“Risk-shifting is where workers often have to contribute not just their time but also capital such as their vehicle, tools, cleaning equipment etc. In this type of economy, many organisations are “asset light”. Businesses make money through providing access to goods and services and making connections between smaller providers and consumers. In doing so, the risk shifts from business to individual gig workers.
These arrangements add to the pressure workers face and can inflate the stresses and insecurities workers may already feel.
A Quarter of Australian Workers are employed as casual workers. While for many this arrangement has provided the flexibility that both the worker and employer are seeking, the undermining of penalty rates has really placed considerable financial pressure on these workers.
The deal between causal workers and their employers has always been a simple one. In exchange for less workplace entitlements such as annual leave and personal leave, a casual worker would be paid a little bit more in their hourly rate to compensate for this and would also be paid their penalty rates on top when they work unsociable hours such as weekends.
The undermining of penalty rates, has meant that the penalty rates for workers working the unsociable hours has been compromised which in turn has financially hurt the very people who can afford it the least. This compromises their financial job security and threatens the flexibility that both the worker and employer enjoyed.
What can be done about it?
Insecure work is a complex and multifaceted problem to overcome however there are levers that can be pulled to help correct the trend towards greater job insecurity in Australia.
Time to Care
The majority of working people have a responsibility to care for children, sick relatives, or an elderly parent.
The Fair Work legislation needs to change so people have a right to part-time or reduced hours and the right to return to normal hours, when their caring responsibilities have reduced or ended.
The Fair Work Legislation needs to change to properly define casual employment. Working people should have a choice to convert to fulltime work if they are in long-term regular work.
Casual employees who have worked on a regular basis for 6 months deserve the right to access and convert to permanent work.
The Fair Work legislation also needs to recognise weekend work and provide a system where by workers are paid a minimum penalty to stop workers from being exploited for working weekend and unsociable hours.
Contractor Employment ‘Sham Contracting’
Classing workers as Individual Contractors deny workers access to basic workplace rights such as workers compensation, personal leave, superannuation, and access to unfair dismissal and the benefits of collective bargaining. The Fair Work Legislation needs to change to allow everyone these basic rights including the right to collectively bargain.
Labour Hire Employment
Labour Hire Licensing is one way to end the scourge of sham contracting that undermines so many workers. A National Labour Hire licensing framework would go a long way to improving the plight of contract workers. This will ensure that employers are not cutting wages and conditions.
Fixed Term Contracts
Governments could also reform fixed term contracts, giving workers who demonstrate a long term commitment to a job an easier path towards permanency as is the case now for some casual workers.
Join a Union!
Joining a union provide access for workers to resources such an organiser who can advocate on a workers behalf. Unions can also investigate rouge employers and through the Fair Work Commission, seek to enforce compliance on rouge employers on behalf of members.
Unions provide a strong voice on campaigns, put pressure on Governments to change legislation, write and publish submissions and collectively bargain to enforce change. With strong activist support, unions can enforce change for the better and help vulnerable workers towards safe and secure work.
Job Security is the number one issue for members and Unions play an integral role as a voice for workers. Union will continue to push for changes in the Fair Work Legislation that allow every worker the right to safe and secure work.
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