Millions would lose 25% pay under radical casual employment plan

More than a million Australians would stand to lose a quarter of their income and freedom to choose how they work in a radical push to inhibit casual employment.

The union movement is today calling for a target that would mean up to 1.3 million employees over the next decade would take a 25 per cent pay cut.

“This would hurt small and family businesses who have been through their hardest year in nearly a century, particularly those in hospitality and tourism. It would also mean half of the 2.6 million Australians employed as casual before the pandemic would surrender 25 per cent of their pay,” ACCI CEO James Pearson said.

“Casual work is a popular and fulfilling choice for many people – including students balancing work with study or parents managing caring responsibilities who often prefer a job that gives them 25 per cent extra pay and the flexibility they need or want.

“Casual employment will be vital to restoring jobs and helping businesses facing headwinds to get back on their feet and deal with fluctuating, seasonal workloads and the risk of future lockdowns and sudden disruption of their markets. For a restaurant or tourism operator and other seasonal businesses, including in regional communities, casual employees are critical to managing the ebb and flow of customer demand and busy holiday or harvest periods.

“This is even more pronounced than ever, with many small businesses facing uncertainty as a result of border closures and changing COVID restrictions.

“ACCI will continue to fight for jobs, and for those people who employ almost half of Australians in this country – small and family business owners. This is not the time to make employing people harder, or the opportunity to hire casuals more difficult.

“Australians need every opportunity for job creation, particularly for generations of young people who, if we get policy and industrial relations wrong at this time, will suffer throughout their lives.”

Despite claims by some unions, casual work is not on the rise in Australia. It has been maintained at a steady rate for the past two decades.

As Melbourne University Professor Mark Wooden noted in his recent report on casual work:

  • The most striking feature of the trend in the casual employment share is how little has changed since 2001
  • If anything, casuals have healthier outcomes across almost all health outcomes examined

“It’s important to remember that casual workers on awards can already currently request to transfer to permanent employment if they have worked for the same employer for 12 months but many still prefer to take the extra pay per hour and flexibility of casual work,” Mr Pearson said.

“The far better policy approach is to strengthen the personal empowerment of workers by giving more workers the ability to choose to move from casual to permanent full or part-time employment if that is what they wish to choose to do.

“We urge Parliament next week to reject harmful rhetoric around casual employment and reconsider what it is for many Australians – a preferred choice.”

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