Fighting for our future: why current IR policy needs to change

19 November, 2021

Despite rising levels of insecure work, Australians working multiple jobs to survive and collective bargaining legislation that continues to provide employers with the balance of power, the current federal government shows little intention to consider industrial relations (IR) policy which would address this reality.

Nearly 900,000 Australians currently work multiple jobs – the highest number since the ABS began tracking secondary jobs in 1994.

Worse yet, there are now a record number of Australians working three or more jobs – 209,100 – a shocking 10.8% increase from June 2020.

A recent Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) report revealed that workers who do work multiple jobs still earn 17.5% less than the national average.

The surge in people working multiple jobs is being driven by employers offering insecure work – a trend accelerated by the pandemic.
Women left worse off ACTU Secretary Sally McManus said the record number of Australians working three or more jobs is a deeply concerning trend.

“The current federal government is overseeing the erosion of the financial security that secure employment has provided for generations of Australian workers,” Ms McManus said.

“The federal government urgently needs to address the insecure jobs crisis plaguing this country and instead ensure working Australians have the quality of life that all people should be able to rely on.

“More than half of those with two or more jobs are women.

“As usual women are left worse off,” she said.

Central Queensland leads country in insecure jobs

In Central Queensland, insecure work is at crisis levels with nearly 4 in 10 workers (38.7%) in casual work, well above the Australian average of 21.9%.

A recent Queensland Council of Unions (QCU) and ACTU report found if all forms of insecure work are included, up  to half of workers in Central Queensland do not have a permanent job.

Ms McManus said casual employment gives all the power to employers, making it difficult for workers to bargain for better pay or rights.

“The federal government has condemned more workers into insecurity by passing laws earlier this year that ensure employers can label any worker as a casual irrespective of the true nature of their work.

“To stop the ‘uberisation’ of the Australian workforce, the federal government must protect workers and pass laws ensuring ‘same job same pay’,” she said.

Failing Australian workers

ACTU President Michelle O’Neil said the federal government should be taking the opportunity presented by the recovery from the pandemic to create secure jobs and boost wages, but instead was encouraging more insecure work and a record-breaking stretch of low wage growth.

“Rather than acting to address the problem, the federal government has actively contributed to it – legislating to make it easier  for employers to class workers as casual simply to cut pay and avoid providing basic workplace entitlements,” Ms O’Neil said.

Bargaining laws remain broken

IEU Branch Secretary Terry Burke said the federal government IR policy and current laws continue to limit the rights of Australian workers.

“The right to take industrial action in pursuit of our concerns as employees remains severely restricted by onerous ballot requirements and unworkable notice periods,” Mr Burke said.

“At the bargaining table, employers know they have more power than ever and will use this to delay and prolong negotiations as long as possible if it suits them.

“We need these laws to change to ensure a better future for all Australians.

“If the current federal government refuses to change them in order to protect our working lives and our community, then we need to change the government,” Mr Burke said.

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