It used to be that when you got a job, it was a job you could count on. Over the last 30 years in Australia, that’s been changing. More and more workers feel insecure even when employed and many NUW members employed in casual positions talk about not b …

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It used to be that when you got a job, it was a job you could count on. Over the last 30 years in Australia, that’s been changing. More and more workers feel insecure even when employed and many NUW members employed in casual positions talk about not being able to plan their future.

In 1984, only 15% of the total workforce worked as casual employees. In 2004, this rose to 28% of the workforce. Today, only 60% of the entire workforce in Australia holds a permanent job. This means that Australia has the highest numbers of individual workers without proper employment protections anywhere in the developed world.

This shift of economic risk onto workers and their families creates problems for all of us. A growing numbers of working people cannot pay the rent, apply for a loan to buy a house or a car, care for the family or save money for a rainy day.

These workers cannot depend on sick pay and do not receive paid annual leave for holidays with family and friends. Some casual workers will not receive superannuation contributions if they are working several jobs.

The increase in insecure jobs also threatens the ability of permanent workers to win a decent standard of living for themselves and their fellow workers.

Employer organisations and political commentators often deny the threats that insecure work poses to our community and point to casual loadings and ‘flexibility’ as reasons that workers prefer casual work.

However when a company uses a third party to employ casual labour, in many cases the labour-hire agency is not bound by a workplace agreement operating on a worksite. This can see a 25% loading for casual workers on the minimum wage rather than the hourly wage that has been negotiated collectively by workers in a union. NUW members are now fighting for ‘site rates’ on a regular basis.

In one such case, labour-hire casuals were only earning 20 cents more per hour than their permanent counterparts. This is an ongoing fight for both permanent and casual workers at that site.

In an NUW survey of casual workers, 80% said they would prefer a permanent position and would move to permanent work at their site if they were offered.

The NUW’s campaign Jobs you can count on aims to reverse the shifting of risk onto working people. This will take time, but it is definitely not possible unless all workers are united and participating in the campaign. We can campaign for permanent jobs, better protections for casual and labour-hire workers, and an end to dodgy contracting when we stand up and say: EVERY WORKER COUNTS!

 


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