Unions winning fight against casualisation

The Australian Workers’ Union and the union movement as a whole is winning the fight against the casualisation of Australia’s workforce.

A string of historic wins at the Fair Work Commission and the Federal Court have sent clear warning shots to big business that the union movement will fight every attempt to cut pay and conditions for Australian workers.

Last month’s ruling [link] on WorkPac v Rossato confirms an earlier decision that up to one million casual employees may now be eligible for entitlements such as annual leave.

This ruling follows years of legal battles led by the trade union movement on behalf of all working Australians.

The Federal Court has now twice ruled there is no such thing as a ‘permanent casual’.

Earlier this year the AWU, CFMMEU, CEPU and AMWU fought off BHP’s attempts to introduce new, sub-standard enterprise agreements through related entities that would have entrenched low pay and a two tier workforce.

“For years, companies across Australia have tried to short change workers by denying them access to their rightful entitlements on the basis of their own incorrect declarations that these employees were casuals,” said Daniel Walton, National Secretary of the AWU.

“We were determined to stop this growing exploitation and our tenacious approach has now paid off with the Federal Court leaving no doubt that the long term labour hire model is flawed and unlawful. It’s high time that we restore dignity and job security across our workplaces and we hope the Morrison Government respects these historic decisions.”

How the union movement secured these historic wins
– A timeline

2016

the Federal Circuit Court found that Paul Skene, a truck driver employed as a casual at a Rio Tinto mine by labour hire firm WorkPac, was not in fact a casual employee for the purposes of the Fair Work Act because his employment lacked the key features of casual employment. However, the judge also found that WorkPac was entitled determine the status of Mr Skene’s employment as casual for the purposes of the enterprise agreement. This led to an appeal by both parties.

2018

the Federal Court dismissed WorkPac’s appeal and concluded Mr Skene was indeed a casual employee under the Fair Work Act and also under the enterprise agreement as well.

The court ordered additional leave payments to Mr Skene and imposed a small fine on WorkPac.
Almost immediately after the court’s ruling, BHP tried to have two new enterprise agreements via two related entities approved by the Fair Work Commission. This was to be BHP’s new method of providing itself with a lower paid workforce now that long term labour hire appeared untenable.

BHP had a small number of employees vote for two proposed agreements that contained vastly inferior terms to those already enjoyed by BHP employees which would apply to significantly more employees than those who voted on them. In effect, BHP was internalising its own labour hire model.

2019

The AWU, CFMMEU and other mining unions joined forces and opposed the two agreements. The EBAs were initially approved, but following an appeal by the unions to a Full Bench of the FWC, the decision to approve the agreements was quashed in early May 2020.

May 20 2020

WorkPac lost its case against Robert Rossato with the Federal Court ruling that he was not a casual employee but a permanent employee with leave entitlements. This further cemented the previous decision in Skene.

Jun 17 2020

WorkPac announces it is seeking special leave to appeal the decision to the High Court.

These are significant wins, but the battle for dignity at work and permanent jobs is far from over.

The BHP enterprise agreements are still subject to further submissions in the FWC, and WorkPac is seeking special leave to appeal the Rossato decision to the High Court.

This is why we need your support more than ever so we have the resources to fight every challenge to your rights, working conditions and pay.

Stand with us.

/Public Release. The material in this public release comes from the originating organization and may be of a point-in-time nature, edited for clarity, style and length. View in full here.