Workers in aged care, shops and call centres will all be able to be paid less, under a push from employers for a new category of “permanent casual” workers.
The NSW business lobby has applied to the Fair Work Commission to be allowed to employ “perma-flexi” casuals under some awards. These workers would lose their rights to higher pay but retain some leave entitlements.
Under the proposal, these workers would have their casual loading cut from 25 per cent to 10 per cent. They would accrue leave but would still be rostered on only as needed.
The NSW Business Chamber said the change would avoid “double-dipping” of benefits, after the Federal Court ruled that a casual truck driver was entitled to annual leave, as he had regular and predictable pattern of shifts for 12 years.
“For the past 120 years, business has employed casual employees and paid them a higher hourly rate in lieu of annual leave and sick leave,” the chamber’s chief executive Stephen Cartwright told the ABC.
“The Federal Court’s recent decision in the Workpac case indicated that some casuals can now claim both the casual loading and annual leave and sick leave on top of this.”
The change would apply to workers on the social, home and aged care, security services, call centre and retail awards. The ACTU says this is potentially millions of workers across Australia.
Employers would still be permitted to change the work hours of perma-flexi workers from week to week, without overtime entitlements.
Workers would be entitled to paid annual, personal, compassionate and community services leave, as well as a notice period if they are terminated.
But unions are opposed to the idea, claiming it will lead to a rapid casualisation of the workforce.
“The business lobby’s push to make workers permanently casual threatens the job security of all working people,” ACTU secretary Sally McManus said.
“Unfortunately, many employers would jump at the opportunity to casualise their workforce so they can chop and change their hours of work whenever they like.”
The ACTU said if the proposal went ahead, affected workers would have heir loading cut but would still not have guaranteed hours. They would be unable predict their income or hours from week to week.
It said business groups were lobbying new Industrial Relations Minister Kelly O’Dwyer to change the law “to remove rights for millions of workers so they avoid paying people they have falsely classified as causal their accrued leave entitlements”.
Ms McManus said unions wanted Ms O’Dwyer to rule out any changes.
“Australia doesn’t need this. We need to change the rules so people have jobs they can count on,” she said.
“We need a proper definition of casual that protects the rights people have fought for, not erodes them like this proposal does.”