"Today's decision will reduce flexibility for some employers in some industries and this is a concern given the tough operating environment that many businesses are experiencing. However, importantly, the unions' main claims have been rejected.
"In the case, which continued for over two years, the unions were seeking an absolute right for casuals to be converted to permanent employment after six months of regular work, and for a standard four-hour minimum engagement period for casuals and part-timers. Ai Group played the leading role in representing employers in the case and strongly opposed these claims. If the unions' claims had been accepted, the jobs of thousands of casual employees were at risk.
"Casual conversion provisions are common in awards and the FWC has decided to extend these provisions across most awards. Under the proposed model clause, employees will be able to remain casual indefinitely should they wish to do so. Casual employees who work regular hours will have the right to apply for permanent employment after 12 months of regular service, but employers will have the right to refuse such requests if refusal is reasonable in the circumstances.
"Similar to their conversion claims, the unions' claims for a standard four-hour minimum engagement period for casuals and part-time employees would have harmed the very people that the unions claim to be representing. Many casuals cannot or do not want to work for four hours, e.g. school students who work in the fast food industry after school. Fortunately, the unions' four-hour minimum engagement claims have been rejected. The Commission has proposed a two-hour minimum engagement period for casuals under awards which do not currently contain any minimum period.
"The FWC has also rejected the unions' claim for a prohibition on employing more casual or part-time employees until existing employees had been offered more hours. This was a loopy idea that is given short shrift in the decision.
"For years, the unions have been making bogus claims about an alleged 'casualisation' of the Australian workforce. They have made these claims so many times now that unfortunately some people have started to believe them. ABS statistics show that the level of casual employment in Australia is the same today as it was in 1998 – about 20% of the workforce. The level of casual employment in Australia has been around 20% for 19 years, with no sign of the level increasing. Union arguments about the 'casualisation' of the Australian workforce are a myth.
"Even though the Commission's decision did not favour employers in all respects, importantly the unions' most damaging claims have been rejected," Mr Willox said.
FWC Casual and Part-time Employment Decision
Ai Group’s final submission in the Casual and Part-time Employment Case
Media enquiries: Tony Melville – 0419 190 347