One in five Australian workers - or 2.1 million people - are employed on a casual basis. In response, the ACTU has launched the first formal investigation into the impacts and increase of casual, contract, labour hire and other forms of insecure work - The Independent Inquiry into Insecure Work.
Inquiry into insecure work - It's about you
Workers now have the opportunity to share their stories about the impact of insecure employment alongside community groups, unions and employers in the new national independent inquiry.
ACTU President Ged Kearney said the inquiry had been commissioned to examine the extent of insecure work and its impact on workers, their families and the community, and to provide recommendations on measures that can be taken to address any problems that are identified.
The inquiry, part of the Secure Jobs. Better Future campaign, will be open for submissions between 2 November and 16 December, before public hearings in each state in February and March commence.
Too many casuals
This year, the CPSU and other unions have joined the ACTU in their national Secure Jobs. Better Future campaign, recognising that secure work is an essential part of a fair society in which all workers, regardless of their method of employment, enjoy rights at work.
In Australia today, only about 60% of workers are in full or part-time ongoing employment. That leaves about 40% in insecure jobs. Insecure work is casual or non-ongoing work that does not provide job security or many of the other rights and entitlements that permanent employees enjoy such as paid leave.
Of the 2.1 million people employed on a casual basis, about 55% have been in their current job for more than a year and 15% for more than 5 years. And, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics data, more than half of all casual employees would prefer a permanent job.
CPSU Assistant National Secretary Louise Persse said it was concerning that the economy and labour market was changing in a way that could undermine the good jobs and conditions unions have fought to build in many industries.
“The shift toward insecure work is not just happening in the private sector,” Ms Persse said.
“At 30 June 2010, 8.3% of employees in the Australian Public Service (APS) were 'non ongoing.' We are increasingly seeing the use of labour hire employees in workplaces such as Centrelink call centres and ATO Operations, where only 65% of staff are ongoing.”
The ACTU says the Secure Jobs. Better Future campaign is designed as a positive push for greater rights at work and to maintain the gains of the Fair Work Act, in the face of pressure from business for an aggressive industrial relations policy going into the next Federal election.
Ms Persse said the rise in insecure work was a concern that CPSU delegates have been fighting in many workplaces in and out of the APS. “In Centrelink we used community concern about regional employment to push for the creation of more ongoing positions in regional call centres,” Ms Persse said. “In the telecommunications sector we organise groups of labour hire workers and successfully pushed for award coverage in contract call centres to provide minimum rights for employees.” More information is available on the Secure Jobs, Better Future site here.
Insecure jobs - The facts
One in four Australian employees - more than 2 million workers - are casual employees, with no job security and no right to paid leave, even when they get sick. Australia has one of the highest rates of casual employment in the developed world.
Casual employment is particularly high in some sectors but it is increasingly common across all sectors of the economy. In accommodation and food services, 65% of all employees are casual and in agriculture, 47% of all employees are casual.
More than half of all casual workers have been casually employed in their current job for more than a year and more than 325,000 workers have been employed casually in their current job for more than 5 years.
The best submissions are those that come in your own words with your unique perspective and experience.
These guidelines are intended to help individual workers put together a submission, based on the terms of reference. The questions are a guide only, and do not need to be strictly followed. We want to hear what you like and dislike about your job. Write as much, or as little, as you want.
1. Tell us about yourself.
Your name, age, living arrangements (eg. share accommodation, mortgage), family status (eg. single, dependents). Are you a member of a union? Which one?
2. What is your work status?
Are you currently working? How long have you had this job? Do you work more than one job? Are you casual/fixed term contract/part time/full time/independent or dependent contractor (i.e. worker with an ABN) or are you calling in regard to someone else?
What level of control do you have over your work? Do your hours change from week to week? Does your pay packet vary from week to week? Does this suit you?
3. Describe your workplace.
What proportion of the workers at your workplace would be hired in a similar way to you (e.g. casual, fixed term contract, independent contractors or labour hire)? Why do you think employers use this kind of work?
Have you ever avoided bringing up an issue at work (e.g. wages, rosters) because you’ve been afraid of how your boss might react? (eg. fear of being sacked or hours being cut?)
Have you received any Occupational Health and Safety training? Would you be prepared to speak out if there was a hazard at your workplace?
Do you have access to conditions such as sick leave, annual leave, family leave, redundancy pay, notice of termination, paid parental leave, notice of change of hours?
4. What are your career prospects?
After your initial training for your job, what training and development has your employer provided for you? Do you feel your job provides you with the opportunity for training and developing your skills? Do you find that there are opportunities for promotion and progression in your job?
5. Your financial situation.
How important is it to you to know how much you will get paid from week to week?
How much money would you say you have left over after buying food and paying bills, for entertainment, clothes and saving? How does this affects the way you get to live your life (eg. getting together with friends, having a meal out, or going on holiday)?
Have you ever had to approach a community organisation (e.g. Salvation Army, Smith Family) for assistance? Do you ever use a pay day lender, or some other form of borrowing to help manage your finances when work is not available? What was your experience?
6. Social/family impact
How would you say your work situation affects your general well-being (eg. your relationships, your health, stress levels)?
What challenges do you face combining work with making plans for the future?
How easily are you able to change your working hours to suit your family/social situation?
How much advance notice are you given of how many hours you will work each week?
What impact does your work have on your ability to be involved in community activities or volunteer work (e.g. help out at your children’s school/sport events/own group or hobby activities)? What effect do you think insecure work is having on your community?
7. Recommendations to the inquiry
What do you think would make a difference to your situation? (e.g. changes to your working arrangements, rights, conditions or entitlements?) Would you like permanent work?
The information you provide will be forwarded onto the Independent Inquiry into Insecure Work in Australia. The panel and staff assisting the inquiry will have access to this information. It will be used for the purpose of conducting the inquiry and preparing a report, and you may be contacted further by the inquiry.