Federal opposition leader Anthony Albanese is proposing a number of sizeable work reforms: Among them, an aim to provide those in insecure work with entitlements and employment security.
In a major speech that was delivered on Wednesday, Albanese presented a series of changes to work policies that he said would focus on “job security. Better pay. A fairer system.”
The proposal, which is under “Labor’s Secure Australian Jobs Plan,” put forth portable leave entitlements for employees in insecure industries, minimum pay and same-pay standards for the same role, and an end to “inappropriate temporary contracts.”
“When the Fair Work Act was written more than a decade ago, few could have predicted the extraordinary growth in the different forms of insecure work,” Albanese said.
“To resolve this, we will legislate “job security” as a key objective of the Fair Work Act.
“This will require the Fair Work Commission to bring a sharp focus to job security when making decisions about your rights at work.
“In addition, we will legislate to ensure more Australian workers have access to employee protections and entitlements currently denied to them by that narrow, outdated definition of an ’employee’.
“We will do this by extending the powers of the Fair Work Commission to include employee-like forms of work, allowing the Commission to make orders for minimum standards in new forms of work.”
Changes for the gig economy
Albanese, in particular, pointed out the need for reform in industries that have arisen in the “gig” or “on demand” economy. Namely, on-demand services such as delivery companies and the types of contracts these companies hold with drivers.
“For these big global firms, there’s a supply of workers “on demand”, yet no employment relationship to manage. It’s all so easy,” Albanese said.
“But in recent times we’ve seen the terrible consequences of a largely unregulated industry that puts unacceptable pressure on gig workers to meet the demands of an algorithm – five deaths on our roads over just three months.
“Because of the way the gig economy is being structured, workers are being denied basic rights such as award benefits, superannuation, the right to collectively bargain and access to unfair dismissal protections.”
Albanese also placed a spotlight on casual workers, saying that “the problem arises when the definition of casual is used and abused to deprive people of pay, leave entitlements or job security.”
“Flexibility must come with security, not at the expense of it. Flexibility must benefit workers as well as employers” Albanese said.
“Under a Labor Government that I lead, we will legislate to create a fair test to determine when a worker can be classified as a casual.”
Albanese said that the Morrison Government had not ensured that workplace laws evolved “at the same pace as changes in patterns of commerce” and that “only a Labor Government can make those adjustments to restore the balance of fairness.”
Those opposed …
Labor’s major proposals are now receiving backlash from groups across both government and business. According to Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter, the pitched changes could end up costing Australian businesses in the vicinity of $20 billion per year.
“It would come at a massive cost to business in the form of a tax which would cause businesses to go extinct,” Porter said in an interview with 2GB radio.
“Like all things that would be nice to do, they come with a cost, which when it comes to Labor manifests in attacks, and it would kill business in Australia.
“So it’s utopian and a lovely thought, but totally impractical, massively costly, and the end result of it would be to kill jobs, not grow them.”
Albanese’s speech comes on the back of Labor’s October childcare and energy overhaul pitch, which promised to transform the childcare subsidy system and develop an electricity transmission infrastructure with the help of a $20 billion corporation. Late January saw Labor undertake a frontbench reshuffle ahead of a possible election later this year.