Labor casuals test pledge to spur debate

Employers’ warnings over such a move come on eve of ATA annual conference

Labor casuals test pledge to spur debate
Brendan O’Connor wants objective test for determining when a worker is a casual


A Labor proposal to define the nature of casual employment has gained election campaign attention and looks set to be debated at the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) conference on the Gold Coast that starts today.

Labor employment spokesman Brendan O’Connor made the pledge at the National Press Club employment policy election debate with employment minister Michaelia Cash last Friday.

"Increasingly, the oxymoronic term ‘permanent casual’ is being used by employers to describe their employees. There is no such thing," O’Connor says.

"That’s why Labor will examine the definition of ‘casual’ work by setting an objective test for determining when a worker is a casual."

But he reiterated the stance yesterday prompting employer responses.

As ATA delegates gather, Queensland Transport Association (QTA) chief executive Gary Mahon notes to ATN the issue will be a talking point at the conference.

Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) CEO James Pearson cast the issue as a "crack down on casual work appears designed to aid a union campaign against workers and employers that choose flexible employment arrangements and may make it harder for young people to get their first job".

"While Labor’s proposal may sound innocuous, in practice it will likely make it harder for people to choose casual arrangements," Pearson says.

"It is no surprise Labor’s announcement has won endorsement from the union movement, which draws most of its membership from among permanent employees rather than casual staff.
"The Labor proposal follows an ACTU claim currently before the Fair Work Commission that would impose many restrictions on casual employment.
"The union claim seeks to impose a minimum four-hour shift for casual and part-time workers, to force employers to allow casual employees to become permanent staff after six months and to ban employers from taking on additional part-time or casual employees without first offering the hours to existing employees.
"The impact of the claim would discourage businesses from hiring and giving work hours to casual and part-time staff.

"The minimum shift requirement would make it harder for businesses to give after-school jobs to students.

"The conversion requirement would discourage hiring casual staff for fear it might lead to a legal entitlement to permanency.

"And the requirement to offer hours to existing staff denies an employer flexibility by ignoring the reality that different staff have different skill sets."

The Courier Mail reports Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott as saying casuals "are an important part of the mix of employee work arrangements – this flexibility can suit the requirements of many workers as well as employers".

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