ACTU attacks new contractors law as threat to job security

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ACTU attacks new contractors law as threat to job security

The union movement has attacked the Federal Government’s proposed new independent contractors legislation, saying it will undermine job security.

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The union movement has attacked the Federal Government’s proposed new independent contractors legislation, saying it will undermine job security.

ACTU President Sharan Burrow said the new laws would make it easier for big businesses to replace existing workers with so-called independent contractors.

Next industrial onslaught

Commenting on the Government’s announcement that it plans to introduce a new law to promote independent contracting next month.

‘The Independent Contractors Act is the Howard Govt’s next industrial relations onslaught,’ she said.

‘Already we have seen the WorkChoices IR laws make it easier for employers to sack their permanent staff and re-employ them as casuals or on contracts with lower wages and conditions.

‘The Government now proposes to take this a step further with a new law that will allow more employers to avoid responsibility for paying superannuation, workers compensation, annual leave and other basic entitlements to people who are called 'contractors' but are essentially employees.’

Really employees

Burrow said a recent University of Melbourne study found that up to 400,000 workers currently classified by the Government as 'independent contractors' are actually employees who do all their work for the one employer.

She said the study found that as many as four out of every ten contractors are 'dependent' not 'independent'.

‘The fact is that many so-called independent contractors would prefer to be permanent employees receiving a decent wage and standard job entitlements such as paid leave, superannuation and access to workers compensation,’ Burrow said.

She said surveys of independent contractors have found that around one-third are people who could not find permanent work, and three-quarters believe that independent contractors are simply used by employers to avoid their obligations to staff.

Case example

‘The recent case of Optus is a classic example which is likely to become more common as employers take advantage of the new laws,’ Burrow said.

‘In April seventy Optus technicians lost their permanent jobs and were invited to buy their vans from the company, obtain an ABN number and re-apply for work with the company as independent contractors.

‘As contractors, the Optus workers will be up to $300 a week worse off by being required to pay their own superannuation, workers compensation, public liability insurance and cover the costs of a van, and all materials and equipment.

‘Besides facing a drop in pay and losing their job security, the workers will also lose entitlements to paid sick leave, public holidays and annual leave and be under pressure to meet performance targets and to work in unsafe situations.’

Related

Some protection still in Contractor’s law - but wait for the details

Optus sacks 70 technicians, offers to reemploy as ‘contractors’

 

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