A push by the Australian Council of Trade Unions to transfer casual workers to permanent employment could hinder start-ups’ ability to employ staff, particularly within the service sector.
In a bid to tackle “precarious employment,” the ACTU is calling for the Gillard government to introduce a proposal that would require employers to make casual workers permanent after 12 months.
ACTU president Ged Kearney says Australia has one of the highest rates of casual work in the world, with more than two million people employed in this way.
“Casuals do not have access to paid holidays, paid sick leave or many other entitlements that permanent employees receive, and the extra pay loading they get does not compensate them for what they miss out on,” Kearney says.
“Contractors usually have to pay their own superannuation, workers comp, and again do not have employee entitlements, coupled with the uncertainty that their contract may not be renewed.”
“Ultimately, this is about giving workers more security over their jobs and their incomes.”
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“If you have been doing the same job, with the same weekly hours for more than a year, why shouldn’t you be able to choose to become a permanent employee with paid annual leave, sick leave and all the rest?”
“For business, there are clear benefits from having a satisfied, secure and permanent workforce in terms of higher productivity and loyalty that often outweigh the small cost savings from casualising your workforce.”
But business groups say the move would significantly reduce workplace flexibility and disadvantage industries that are heavily reliant on casual employment.
John Hart, chief executive of Restaurant & Catering Australia, says the plan would hurt the services sector because most people working less than fulltime hours did so voluntarily.
“It would just be driving that sector to the wall,” Hart says.