The Greens have introduced a bill into Parliament that would allow casual workers to request a move to full-time employment, with business groups slamming the proposal as unrealistic.
The bill is the latest attempt by the Greens to address what it considers to be a job security issue brought about by workforce casualisation. It points to the fact casual workers now make up 25% of the workforce, having risen dramatically in the past 30 years.
And while small businesses have been exempted from the potential effect of the bill, business groups are still irate.
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In a statement last week, Greens deputy leader Adam Bandt said the bill would provide a process for an employee who is on a casual or rolling contract to request a move to secure employment.
If the employer refuses, an application to Fair Work Australia can be made which can issue a secure employment order. During this process, the bill mandates that Fair Work Australia must consider the need of employees to have secure jobs and stable employment.
“Too many Australian workers have little economic security and little control over their working lives. This makes it harder for them to plan their lives or commit to long-term arrangements like getting a mortgage,” said Bandt.
“This is a particular problem for women, who are more likely to find themselves in insecure employment.”
The bill exempts small businesses, using the Fair Work definition. That is, businesses with fewer than 15 employees. But Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry Peter Anderson told SmartCompany this morning the bill is a “completely unrealistic proposition”.
“It’s written by politicians who are well and truly divorced from business reality. There can be no realistic way the Parliament can create secure employment for workers given the Parliament cannot create a law that says there will be a secure economy.”
“It’s a false notion peddled by the Greens that politicians can legislate secure employment and the sooner that the community rejects these theoretical and misleading notions the better, because they do no justice to our political debate.”
The Greens have been advocating changes to insecure work arrangements for months. The Howe Inquiry, released earlier this year, was used as the catalyst for its push, also supported by the Australian Council of Trade Unions.
The ACTU has also pushed for changes that would amend “joint employment” responsibility programs.
However, employment and business experts have said casual employment remains an important aspect of work, especially in retail, where workers choose to have casual hours to fit around a flexible lifestyle.