At the National Contracting Conference in Adelaide last week, members from around the country came together to talk all things related to the contracting industry—and to call time up on Australia's casualisation crisis.
Over the years, Australia has seen a steady encroachment of insecure, casualised work conditions across many of our industries.
The contracting sector is particularly hard hit, with thousands of workers across the country in precarious employment which means if they don't show up to work, they won't get paid. At the ETU's annual contracting industry conference, members and delegates stood together behind a strong message: the casualisation crisis has to end.
"A lot of us remember a time when everyone had access to paid leave—when working families were able to take holidays and have a level of security," says ETU Assistant Secretary David Mier.
"Since then, a lot has gone wrong in this country."
"And the real BS is that casual workers are paid a 25% 'casual loading' to make up for the fact that they don’t have access to paid leave. But with baseline agreements providing little more than the award, there is no check to see if they are in fact paying 25% more than what the workers are entitled to under this system. When there is no ability for us to reference the prevailing agreement, or make these companies reference the industry standard agreements, you end up with dodgy agreements that rip casuals off.
"Almost one third of Australia's workforce don't have access to any paid leave entitlements. There has been a deliberate systematic attack on wages and conditions of working people by this government and, in the coronavirus crisis, it is now coming home to roost."
As we've found out during this crisis, denying access to sick leave isn't just unfair for casual and precarious workers. It’s a threat to public health and safety, as sick workers face a choice between staying home and losing income, or going to work and potentially exposing others to COVID-19.
We're calling on an end to insecure work conditions in Australia, and demanding that we institute paid leave for all employees. And we're asking our members to help us out with this campaign.,
What can you do?
Things should never have been allowed to get this bad. But now that the COVID-19 crisis has shown the problems inherent to a vulnerable, widely casualised workforce, Australia has a chance to use the crisis as a catalyst for real, meaningful change in the contracting sector.
In this time of crisis, we are calling on ETU members and supporters to:
- Discuss the issue with your friends and family to raise awareness
- Draw attention to the casualisation crisis via social media. The ACTU have developed some great shareable videos that highlight the danger casual labour poses during this pandemic—check out their facebook page to share this content
- Call you local talk back radio program. This is a fantastic way for everyday people to have their voices heard and influence our national conversation
- Sign the ACTU petition calling for two weeks paid special leave for all workers during this crisis. This is only a starting point, but it's the most essential measure we can take right now and could be a matter of life and death for workers and the people they could otherwise expose to the coronavirus