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Nothing new in ACTU leader's speech – the facts do not support the assertions

"The comments in today's speech by ACTU Secretary Sally McManus contain nothing new. It's like the ACTU is reheating an old dinner that no one wanted in the first place," Australian Industry Group Chief Executive, Innes Willox, said today.

"The ACTU is re-hashing flawed arguments, misrepresented statistics and discredited policy proposals that the unions have been peddling for some time.

"The ACTU keeps pushing their casual employment proposals even though they have been rejected by the independent Fair Work Commission.

"Their tired arguments are disconnected from economic reality, just like their proposal for a $50 per week increase in the national minimum wage – an increase nearly 4 times the rate of inflation. Their proposals would kill jobs and keep young people out of work.

"It is important that the facts are understood, because the facts do not support the ACTU's assertions:

 ACTU AssertionThe Facts
1 That casual employment is increasing in Australia ABS statistics show that casual employment has been stable in Australia for the past 20 years at about 20% of the workforce.[1]
2 That labour hire is increasing in Australia ABS statistics show that approximately 1% of all employed persons across Australia are labour hire employees.[2] This remains a very small proportion of the workforce.
3 That independent contracting is increasing in Australia ABS statistics show that self-employed independent contractors make up about 8.5% of employed people. This proportion has decreased from 9.1% in 2014.

By far, the biggest group of independent contractors are engaged in the construction industry (e.g. plumbers and electricians).[3]

4 That the definition of casual employment has changed in recent years and a new definition is needed. The standard definition of casual employment in awards is “an employee engaged as a casual and paid as a casual”. This sensible and clear definition has been the same for decades.

The ACTU wants to introduce a new definition based on the work patterns of an employee, which would be uncertain and unworkable. The ACTU’s arguments for a new definition were recently rejected by a Full Bench of the Fair Work Commission.

5 That casual employees should have the right to convert to permanent employment after 6 months, with an employer having no right to refuse Under standard award clauses, casual employees have the right to seek to convert to permanent employment after 6 or 12 months of regular employment. An employer can only refuse on reasonable business grounds.

The ACTU’s claim to remove an employer’s right of reasonable refusal was recently rejected by a Full Bench of the Fair Work Commission as this would impose unreasonable restrictions on businesses and potentially lead to widespread job losses.

6 That the Fair Work Act 2009 is unfair upon workers and unions The Fair Work Act introduced by the Labor government in 2009 markedly increased worker entitlements and union power. Since its introduction it has been amended on several occasions by the Labor and Coalition Governments to increase worker entitlements and to impose much higher penalties on employers.

Since the Act was introduced, there have been no significant amendments to address issues of concern for businesses, despite a major Productivity Commission inquiry recommending a series of important changes to support productivity improvements.

"It is important that all political parties act in the national interest and decisively reject the ACTU's tired and flawed arguments," Mr Willox said.


[1] ABS Catalogue 6333.0 - Characteristics of Employment

[2] ABS Catalogue 6333.0 - Characteristics of Employment

[3] ABS Catalogue 6333.0 - Characteristics of Employment

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