Insecure work

Independent Inquiry into Insecure Work in Australia

I recommend two changes for more secure work.

1. Amend the Fair Work Act to have an effective right to strike.

2. Amend the Fair Work Act to restrict casual and other forms of precarious work to a limited period and apply more secure contracts of employment. Fair Work Australia is to have the discretion to conciliate and arbitrate the transition to the more secure employment contracts.

1. The right to strike

I submit the lawful strike is essential for beginning to enable employees and their unions to respond to dire precarious work of existing capitalist labour relations.

The international capitalist crisis daily worsens putting more pressure on business to further move to precarious and exploitative work.

In response, there is a driving imperative for employees to have the FWA balance the more powerful corporate and government forces by amendments that protect the right to strike.

I have written on this blog for a right to strike, firewalling industrial action for protection for employees and their unions.

I argue the right to strike is vital for employees in all the forms of non-standard work.

Arguments are strong for amendments to the Fair Work Act to protect the right to strike. I urge as necessary the repeal of the Australian Building and Construction Act, and the ABCC functions and powers.

All of the existing provisions from the earlier Workplace Relations Act and Work Choices still in the current repressive regime against strikes are to be deleted.

Instead, a broad legal protection for all forms of industrial action is inserted.

At a minimum, commonly accepted ILO principles protecting the right to strike are to be adopted. The history of such ILO principles and their non-application by Australia is well known in the industrial relations and labour law community.

Similarly, labour law critical analysis by Shae McCrystal ‘The Right to Strike in Australia’. I recommend Keith Ewing’s research on the right to strike and Tania Novitz (see this blog).

There is much criticism of the failure of the current FWA to have an effective right to strike in writings by industrial relations specialists, labour lawyers, the ACTU and unions.

Firewalling the right to strike I submit is essential to assist strategies for secure jobs.

2. Job security in the Fair Work Act

The overall merit evidence from employees’ adverse experiences in precarious work and the unjust impact socially at many levels in the Australian community requires Fair Work Act amendments for job security. Here are some recommendations.

2.1 One amendment is to clearly restrict casual employment to only short periods, such as 4 hours daily and no more than fortnightly.

Then a provision that compels employers and allows employees the transition from existing casualisation to more permanent on-going employment contracts.

Such a provision has bargaining rights for precarious workers to change to secure employment with the terms to be negotiated and agreed. The clear right exists when not being able to reach an agreement for the employee(s) to access conciliation and arbitration from FWA to gain process steps for more permanent work.

The same applies to ending many short-term contracts. After two short term contracts, then the employer is required to move to more permanent, on-going contracts.

Special attention is to support any employee with service e.g. more than seven years who is to be on a permanent contract, as is an existing employee with 10 years before retirement. Other non-standard employment sectors could be protected such as in the disability sector.

2.2 The next new section is to ensure that labour-hire contract provisions are not attractive to employers for lowering costs. The aim is have protections against precarious work in the labour-hire industry.

Such provisions are to ensure the same wages and conditions in the user firm in similar work employees from must be hired permanently for not less than two years. There is a formal written contract with the same rate and benefits. The worker may join the user firm’s union. Labour-hire is to be implemented ‘generally for short-term, supplementary and substitute positions’.
Provisions for transition and
compliance need to be put in place.

2.3 Strengthening enforcement provisions by employees and unions to ensure that employers pay legal wages and comply with all employment conditions of the contracts of employment, with speedy measures for exploited workers to recover wages. Increased penalties and damages against non-complying employers.

2.4 A provision that deems for compliance that legal minimums exist in contracts of employment so that those entitlements can be enforced even if there is no evidence of a written contract of employment.

2.5 Amend the unfair dismissal section so that the right applies to all employees, irrespective of the employee’s status or contract of employment or the size of the employer’s workforce.

The big lie that employers may not employ was made up by Peter Reith’s press secretary and is repeated ad nauseum in the media, but is to be rejected.

Even precarious workers ‘dismissed’ ought to have an opportunity to state their case about why they were unreasonably dismissed before a user friendly FWA conciliator then arbitrator for reinstatement or not.

2.6 For strengthened redundancy provisions in a new minimum entitlement that has a provision for one month’s pay for each year of service for redundant employees. This new minimum deters employers from making employees redundant and assists redundant employees in this recessionary period.

2.7 A specific process provision for precarious workers with non-standard work arrangements to have the legal right to union representation and to be able to organise in unions.

I support the ACTU campaign for Secure Jobs.

As the many issues of insecure work in Australia has overseas the same issues this Inquiry will investigate other countries attempts to deal for greater protection for their employees. I recommend China’s attempt (see this blog).

I urge support for the Independent Inquiry into Insecure Work in Australia


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