Labor open to forcing employers to convert casuals to permanent staff after six months

Labor open to forcing employers to convert casuals to permanent staff after six months

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Minister for Women Michaelia Cash walk behind Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and Terri Butler MP to the White Ribbon Breakfast in Parliament House in Canberra on the 4th of December 2017. Fedpol. Photo: Dominic LorrimerLabor says it would consider forcing employers to turn casuals to permanent staff after six months, halving the amount of conversion time ordered by the Fair Work Commission earlier this year.

In comments that are set to further inflame tensions between Labor and business groups as they kick-start another year of battle over industrial relations, the Opposition’s employment spokesman Brendan O’Connor accused some employers of being “their own worst enemy”

“They employ hundreds of casuals and then they wonder why the turnover in their workplace or their business is so high,” he said on Wednesday.

“One of the reasons why turnover happens so quickly is because people cannot live indefinitely in work that’s so precarious.

“They have no guaranteed minimum hours and they have no capacity to get decent wage increases.”

Mr O’Connor said he would look at time frames to convert casuals to permanent employees just hours after the Australian Council of Trade Unions announced it would campaign heavily on the issue.

“I think we need to sit down with stakeholders including unions and employers to discuss that,” he said.

Business groups have slammed at the proposal, warning that such a move would make staff management impractical, particularly in areas such as hospitality, retail and healthcare where up to one-in-five employees are casual workers.

“The Business Council does not support simplistic, one-size-fits all solutions to complex industrial relations issues,” a spokesman for the Business Council of Australia said.

“Workplace regulation should provide protection against unreasonable or unfair working conditions, but it should not create a barrier to employment for those who need flexibility to enter the workforce, including older workers or those with caring responsibilities.”

The Australian Industry Group said many casuals opting to maintain their higher hourly rates of pay over benefits when offered permanent positions.

Federal Minister for Jobs Michaelia Cash accused the union of scaremongering after revealing the Turnbull government would switch its slogan from “jobs and growth” to “let’s keep Australia working” on Wednesday.

“Casual and part-time work helps to create new jobs and gives people flexible working options,” she said.

“It’s a genuine and fulfilling choice for many people, particularly those balancing work with studying.”

Senator Cash said figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed casual work had been broadly stable, at 25 per cent, since 1996.

That is true, but ABS figures also show that the underemployment rate for 25-34 year olds (those who are employed but would like to work more hours) reached 7.9 per cent in May, a 30-year peak that is higher than the recession of the early 1990s or the global financial crisis.

In July, the Fair Work Commission rejected the ACTU’s proposal to force employers to convert casual to permanent employees with access to benefits, such as sick leave, after six months of regular employment.

The union had argued that a “significantly large category of workers” were being employed as casuals despite their pattern of work reflecting those of permanent employees.

The ACTU won the right for employees to ask to be made permanent after 12 months, but also gave employers the right to reasonably refuse the request.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.