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Australian Council of Trade Unions
Independent Inquiry into Insecure Work in Australia

11 December 2011

'Secure work' is really another term for work bondage!

The Australian Council of Trade Unions is conducting an Independent Inquiry into Insecure Work in Australia.

Last week we received an invitation from the inquiry Chair to participate in their inquiry. We replied 'no' because we do not see the inquiry as being independent but instead having outcomes pre-determined against self-employed people. Here's their letter to us and our response below.

11 December 2011

Dear Mr Howe

Thankyou for your letter of 7 December 2011 inviting Independent Contractors Australia to contribute to your inquiry into 'Insecure Work In Australia.' Whilst we appreciate the courtesy of your approach, ICA will not be making a submission.

We have made this decision because we believe that the inquiry, by virtue of its terms of reference and the attitudes of the organization funding it:
  • Is not a legitimate inquiry into work in Australia
  • Is designed and intended to identify 'insecure work' only as a 'problem'
  • Has no reference or brief to consider how alleged 'insecure work' contributes to the well being of individuals, families and society in general.
In fact the very notion of considering any form of work that is not full-time and permanent as 'insecure' and 'a problem' displays a significant disconnect from the aspirations and lives of vast numbers of Australians.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions, the financier of your inquiry, is actively pushing an industrial, academic and political agenda that argues that only full-time, permanent work is legitimate or moral. Those of us who do not want to work this way are somehow being portrayed as immoral: a nonsense and an insult.

Contrary to this narrow and singular view of the ACTU, we contend that people no longer seek 'security of work'. Rather what people want is reliability and continuity of income. How they achieve that income is not fixed. It can come through many means including casual employment, being self-employed (ICA's interest and speciality), investments, through labour hire and yes, full-time permanent work. All these forms of work are legitimate and moral but no one is more moral than any other.

We contend that the ACTU's campaign to force only full-time permanent work on our society is not legitimate. It reflects an organization with a culture that has a strange desire to see working Australian's bonded in the 'wage slavery' of employment.

At ICA we have different aspirations, namely that people can free themselves from this antiquated wage slavery. We aspire to the true empowerment of the working individual. We see the ACTU as campaigning against this aspiration.

Given this wide gulf between the ACTU and ICA we believe that should we make a submission we run the high risk of our involvement being construed and misused as somehow being supportive of the ACTU agenda.

We have evidence to support our concern. Recently the ACTU released a survey of 40,000 unionists and their attitudes to secure work. That survey showed that the unionists did not hold 'permanent secure work' as a high motivating factor in their working lives. Yet the ACTU claim the survey supports their campaigning. Our analysis is here.

While we do not question your independence, we do not see the inquiry as 'independent' but rather a publicity and marketing tool of the ACTU. Consequently we must decline your offer of involvement.


Ken Phillips
Executive Director

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