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Casual employment case scheduled to conclude today

"The Australian Industry Group (Ai Group) has today presented its final oral submissions in the long-running Casual and Part-time Employment Case, urging the Fair Work Commission (FWC) to decisively reject the unions' claims. The case is scheduled to conclude late this afternoon after all the final oral submissions have been heard. The five-Member Full Bench of the FWC is likely to hand down its decision later this year," Innes Willox, Chief Executive of the Australian Industry Group said today.

"Ai Group is playing the leading role in representing Australian employers in the case. Ai Group is strongly opposing union claims for an absolute right for casuals to be converted to permanent employment after six months of regular work, and for a four-hour minimum engagement period for casuals.

"The evidence in the case shows that the unions' casual conversion claims, if accepted by the Commission, would threaten the jobs of thousands of casual workers. There are over two million casual workers in Australia.

"For the past 16 years many awards have contained a right for casuals to request conversion to permanent employment after 6 or 12 months of regular employment, with employers having the right to refuse an employee's request only if reasonable in the circumstances. In the current case, the unions are seeking to remove an employer's right of reasonable refusal despite the fact that the evidence shows that virtually no disputes have arisen over the existing award provisions. The evidence also shows that when given the opportunity to convert, the vast majority of casuals have not wanted to. They have not wanted to lose the flexibility that casual employment offers and/or have not wanted to give up the 25 per cent casual loading.

"Similar to their casual conversion claims, the unions' claims for a four-hour minimum engagement period would be harmful for industry, workers and the broader community. 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. Also, many people who need services in their homes, only need assistance for an hour or two, not for four hours at a time. A four-hour minimum engagement period would be crippling for the aged care and community services industries which provide in-home services for the elderly and sick, and people with disabilities. The evidence in the case shows that businesses which currently provide in-home care would in many cases be unable to continue to provide these services.

"Employers, employees and the broader community benefit from a flexible labour market. The ability for employers to engage casuals when needed is essential to their competitiveness and their capacity to continue to employ people. Also, the flexibility that casual employment offers allows hundreds of thousands of people to participate in the workforce who would otherwise not be able to given their family or personal circumstances.

"For years the unions have been trying to convince everyone that there is a 'casualisation' problem in Australia, so that they can have major restrictions placed on casual employment. However, 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, with no sign of this level increasing. There is no 'casualisation' problem in Australia.

"In its final oral submissions today, Ai Group has urged the Commission to completely reject the unions' ill-conceived claims. The claims have no merit whatsoever," Mr Willox said.

See: Ai Group’s final submission in the Casual and Part-time Employment Case

Media Enquiries Tony Melville – 0419 190 347