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Oz unions’ weird desire to impose ‘permanent’ wage slavery

Saturday, December 12, 2020

News just out is that private-sector union membership in Australia has plunged to 9 per cent of the workforce. Unions are rapidly becoming public-sector-only, with about 37 per cent of that workforce. Perhaps this is why unions are campaigning so hard to try and force ‘wage slavery’ onto all of us. They are fighting for survival.

The ACTU’s core campaign is against ‘insecure work’. It aims to impose ‘permanent’ employment on Australians. But it’s illogical. In particular their campaign has been mugged in the blink of Covid eye reality.

When planes can’t fly, ‘permanent’ airline jobs also ‘fly’. Empty hotels mean an emptying out of permanent hospitality jobs. When cruise ships no longer cruise, the impermanency of every ship job hits home. Economic reality determines everything. Like it or not!

The ACTU’s claim that ‘insecure workers’ are more likely to face unemployment is just plain wrong. No job type—permanent, casual, part-time or contract—escaped the Covid mugging.

The illogicality of the ACTU stance extends to statistics. Unions portray ‘insecure’ work as a growing ‘problem’. That is false. Recent analysis from University of Melbourne Professor Mark Wooden confirms the following.

Casual employment has remained at around 20 per cent of the workforce for 20 years. Labour hire and gig work is small, at less than 5 per cent of the workforce. Self-employment has sat at around 2.1 million people but declined slightly as a workforce percentage to around 17 per cent over the last 15 years or so.

What’s also illogical in the ACTU stance is the complaint about casual employees’ lack of access to ‘entitlements’ such as holiday pay. This is plain nonsense.

Casuals get paid 25 per cent plus more than permanents to make up for holidays and so on. Casuals receive holiday pay built into their hourly pay. Permanents get paid less upfront and get paid the money when they take holidays. In fact, casuals end up with more money than permanents because full-time ‘entitlements’ usually only add about 19 per cent to their pay. Casuals can receive up to 6 per cent more than permanents.

The Federal government’s proposed new workplace laws will allow casuals to access permanent part-time work after 12 months. They will allow part-timers to work extra hours. The ACTU continues to find problems even under these reforms.

Even the economic ‘war’ with China has taught Australia that there is no such thing as ‘permanent’. We now are fully aware that reliance on permanency of trade with China or any one big national market is massively risky. Trade security is found in having a wide range of trading partners. It’s the same with work for individuals. Having a range of work and income sources is safer than relying on one ‘permanent’ job. In reality, ‘permanency’ is insecurity.

Too often the ACTU agenda falls apart in the face of the facts. On this issue their ‘anti-insecurity’ agenda looks like a policy solution searching for a policy problem that doesn’t exist.

We need to focus on ‘solutions’ for a 24/7 economic reality in which Covid and China have both taught us that nothing is permanent. To pretend otherwise is to live with fantasies that will harm us.


Comments
Rhonda commented on 13-Dec-2020 02:32 PM
Just a quick comment regarding Casual v Permanent.

They don’t seem to be looking at all types of casual workers when making these decisions. Not everyone works in hospitality, the industry they seem to be most focussed on. Many would not be better off overall, for example, the Passenger Vehicle Transport Award.

Under this award, part time is of benefit to the employer, not the employee. In our particular job, casual is $43.84 more per day than part time. Even adding in 20 days holiday and 10 sick days to the part time rate, the casual worker is still better off per year by $8548.80.

This is because the award adds the 25% loading, plus it increases the minimum hours from 3 (part time) to 4 (casual) i.e. in our case casuals work for 2 but are paid for 4 (job not stable enough for part time)

Just my thoughts
Rosalind commented on 13-Dec-2020 02:43 PM
My understanding of casual work is that a significant number of employees prefer it - younger people not wanting to tie themselves down to a permanent job, part-time or full time, for personal lifestyle reasons. People wanting to travel, once they’ve saved enough, and others subsidising tertiary studies with regular holiday jobs.

Employers in regional hospitality, like coffee shops along the Victorian coast, need reliable casuals during the peak summer holidays. At Point Lonsdale, for example, Pasquini’s Deli in the main drag has thrived for 20-years+ by valuing its summer holiday casual workforce, helping them support themselves through university while they become well-qualified medicos, lawyers, engineers, etc. Casual work for them is a means to an end, not insecurity.

In this situation each side values the other. Long-term job security is what those young people are aiming for, and short-term casual work provides valuable life experience in the meantime. It also adds substance to a professional resume, indicating to a future employer that you’re a diligent and reliable worker, not a bludger. Holiday employers will provide good references for reliable casual employees.

Sure, this situation does not apply to everyone. Older women, in particular, might prefer permanent work but be unable to secure it. But it’s a mistake to disparage casual work per se for being ‘insecure’.
Craig commented on 13-Dec-2020 02:45 PM
You’re being very generous with the value of the benefits to full-time employees. The casual loading started out at 13% and made it’s way up to 19% through a combination of full-time employees getting extra entitlements, (such as redundancy pay, and additional sick leave – 8 days became 10 days, “bereavement leave” became compassionate leave and went to two days per occasion instead of a maximum of two days in any year and so on) and the desire of the various industrial tribunals to build a penalty into the casual loading to discourage employers from preferring casuals. The decisions issued at the time confirmed that: a deliberate extra loading was built in as a disincentive to employers using casuals. And when it didn’t work, they kept increasing it until we finally got to 25%, and now these people are evidently “exploited”.

Under most awards and except for shift workers getting their extra week of annual leave, the value of annual leave is actually about 9%. The value of sick leave is about 4.5%. The bureau of stats tells us that of people entitled to take paid sick leave, about 45% of that entitlement is actually used. Very few employees get sick leave paid out on termination – it just evaporates. So the cost to employers is more like 11% to 12% for annual leave and sick leave combined. The vast majority of employees do not get paid redundancy pay, and most quit rather than being fired, so in the main notice pay doesn’t apply either. Casuals have the same Long Service Leave entitlements as full-timers, except of course it costs 25% more for their LSL than a full-timer. I’ve worked the numbers out for hundreds of employers over the years, and we generally come out at around 14% as the additional cost for a full-timer, including all those other entitlements that are actually used. So a typical casual is actually paid about 11% more than a full-timer.

McManus and co love having fun with numbers, in a manner that we would previously have named “fraud”. They like to portray “insecure” employees as being actual casuals, and casuals are included, but they also include the likes of me – a self-employed consultant and proud member of your fine organisation. They also include the likes of members of parliament, in fact basically anyone who isn’t in a full-time Monday to Friday office hours job is considered to be “insecure” which they then conflate with “casual”. That’s where they get their preferred evidence of the proliferation of casual employment, which as we know, does not actually exist.

And using the word “permanent” is actually part of the union campaign to make people believe they are entitled to security and are being ripped off if they don’t have it. It’s Full-time, Part-time or Casual, and can include “temporary employment” under various guises, including seasonal, short-term, fixed term etc. The notion of permanent employment does not appear in the Fair Work Act, and did not appear in any of the previous Acts either, including Qld State legislation. But even our Prime Minister and our local MP have fallen for the trap of referring to is as permanent, and thinking about it accordingly.

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