Casuals, women the focus of ALP policy

Analysis

Casuals, women the focus of ALP policy

A Labor Federal Government would help secure conversion to permanent employment for regular, long-term casuals, Shadow IR Minister Craig Emerson pledged yesterday.

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A Labor Federal Government would help secure conversion to permanent employment for regular, long-term casuals, Shadow IR Minister Craig Emerson pledged yesterday.

Speaking in an address to the National Press Club in Canberra, Emerson said the Australian Labor Party would introduce legislation to support the inclusion of such provisions in awards and agreements, as already applied in the metals and hospitality industries.

The metalworkers were the first in Australia to be granted conversion rights, in a landmark decision delivered more than three years ago (see previous story).

Under that ruling, employers can refuse the request if it is unreasonable for their business. Emerson said ‘reasonableness’ would be determined with regard to ‘workplace realties’ such as the size and nature of the business, recognising larger businesses’ greater capacity to accommodate such requests.

He said conversion to permanent work would help casuals secure home loans and access training, and would thus increase the productivity of Australia as a whole. 

His announcement comes ahead of next month’s test case hearing before a full bench of the NSW IRC for conversion of casual workers in that state to permanent employment after six months.

The role of women

Labor also plans to target working-age women, promising to help them return to work after parental leave on a part-time basis, by adding to the objects of the Workplace Relations Act the better balancing of work and family responsibilities. Emerson said this would enable the pursuit through awards and agreements of a parent’s right to request a return to work on a part-time basis. 

Other items on Labor’s industrial agenda include:

  • Restoring the right of employees to be represented by a union in collective bargaining if they so choose, removing the present capacity of employers to refuse to negotiate with a union;

  • Abolishing Australian Workplace Agreements, although employees would still be able to negotiate individual common law agreements, with working conditions underpinned by the relevant award. AWAs have a take-up of less than 3% of the workforce;

  • Re-empowering the Australian Industrial Relations Commission to adjudicate on intractable disputes;

  • Require parties to bargain in good faith;

  • Guarantees the payment of 100% of employee entitlements in case of a corporate insolvency.

 

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