South Australia 2000: the year in review


South Australia 2000: the year in review

South Australia set the pace industrially this year on the issue of casualisation, as other jurisdictions conducted test cases designed to increase remuneration for non-permanent workers.


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South Australia set the pace industrially this year on the issue of casualisation, as other jurisdictions conducted test cases designed to increase remuneration for non-permanent workers.


While unions tried in the Queensland and Australian Industrial Relations Commissions to increase casual loadings, South Australian casual workers scored a huge win in July, with that State’s Commission giving 15,000 casual clerks the right to apply for permanency after 12 months’ employment.

The landmark decision, now being appealed by employers, is regarded as a big win for job security in the wider sense, which Australian unions are pursuing on a number of fronts. However, the Commission cautioned that permanency was not in itself a guarantee of job security.

It means workers, who in many cases had been working for years as casuals, will now be entitled to paid leave and other award entitlements like notice of termination and severance pay, parental leave, consultation and the like. 

Now retired, Deputy President Greg Stevens acknowledged in his decision that granting even part of the union’s claim would 'cut across the trend' in most industries to increase levels of casual employment but, he said, that trend was largely 'unregulated and unchecked'.

In October, SA employers have listed 22 grounds for appeal against retired Deputy President Greg Stevens’ decision, starting with the claim that he erred in varying the Clerks (SA) Award at all.

They also say he failed to have ‘proper regard’ to the concept that casualisation was a matter ‘more properly the subject of government policy’

Union plans to extend the casual decision in the clerks award to other areas, like retail, hospitality, and the credit union sectors had been put on hold pending the outcome of the appeal.

However they launched a survey of young casual workers during Casual Workers Week, to coincide with the start of the appeal.

For more information, see previous stories: 

  • SA youth speak out on casuals' life; 
  • SA casual win under appeal; and 
  • SA casual clerks win landmark right to permanency.
Living Wage

A six-member bench of the SA IRC flowed on the $15 federal Living Wage decision in May. Unions must apply for the increase on an award-by-award basis, and workers have to wait 12 months since the last rise for the new one to apply.

For more information, see previous story: 

  • Qld the fourth state to flow on Living Wage increase.
Industrial Relations Commission

Deputy President Greg Stevens, Commissioner Robert Fairweather, and Commissioner Richard Huxter retired mid-year. While all three were primarily State industrial appointees, they were also dual commissioners for the federal commission.

This left Adelaide with no federal commission appointees for nearly six months. Two weeks ago federal Workplace Relations Minister Peter Reith announced four new senior deputy presidents would take up appointments with the AIRC from February 1. The Adelaide-based SDP is Matthew O’Callaghan, former executive director of the South Australian Employers’ Federation. He was also formerly director of the SA Office of Public Sector Management, chief executive of the SA Department of Industrial Affairs, and executive director with Workplace Services in the SA Government.

The State Commission replacements were made in August, but not without a stir. The SA IRC’s first woman commissioner, Karen Bartel, was an industrial officer with the Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers’ Union, and her name was one of three put forward and agreed to by both unions and employers.

However the Government passed over the other two on the list – the firefighters’ union secretary Mick Doyle and Business SA’s David Steel – in favour of former United Trades and Labor Council secretary John Lesses and Business SA’s Adrian Dangerfield.

For more information, see previous stories: alerts 

  • AIRC in crisis gets four new members; 
  • Tasmania, Queensland, HREOC all waiting on Commission appointments; and 
  • SA still waiting on Commission appointments.

Like the ALP Victorian and Tasmanian Governments, the conservative South Australian Government has had great difficulty in moving ahead on its industrial relations legislation, initially introduced last year by former IR Minister Armitage. The Bill was halted in the Legislative Council and the Government has been talking of moving it ahead all year, but intense lobbying by unions of Democrats and Independent members who hold the balance in the Upper House has held it back. However current Minister Robert Lawson has signaled that he may reintroduce the legislation next March. Features of the Bill include:

  • doing away with the ‘no disadvantage’ test;
  • having three or four common conditions of minimum employment;
  • bringing in external mediators (that is, not from the SA IRC);
  • and a provision that would entail employees working on public holidays and adding that day to their annual leave.
Other states
  • Queensland 2000: the year in review
  • New South Wales 2000: the year in review
  • Victoria 2000: the year in review
  • Tasmania 2000: the year in review
  • Western Australia 2000: the year in review



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