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Battling union claims to restrict casual flexibility

Ai Group is taking a leading role in the Fair Work Commission’s Casual and Part-time Employment Common Issues Case to be heard by a Full Bench as part of the Four-Yearly Review of Awards. The case will be heard by a Full Bench headed by Vice President Hatcher.

In the case, Ai Group is pursuing various changes to the casual and part-time provisions in various specific awards. We will argue that casual and part-time employment provisions need to be dealt with on an award-by-award basis and that one size does not fit all.

For many years, the unions have been pushing to impose more restrictions on employers and employees in relation to casual employment – a push they are renewing for the Four-Yearly Review of Modern Awards by pursuing claims to:

• insert clauses in all awards giving casual employees the right to convert to permanent employment after a period of employment on a regular and systematic basis, either through a provision which deems employees to be permanent employees after a particular period, or which gives them the right to convert regardless of the views of the employer;
• impose longer daily minimum engagement periods for casual and part-time employees; and
• reduce employers’ discretion regarding the rostering of part-time employees.

Claims to force employers to employ fewer casual employees or to force casuals to convert to full-time or part-time employment are not in the interests of employers, employees or the community. Employers need flexibility to maintain productivity and competitiveness; employees need flexibility to meet family responsibilities and lifestyle choices; and the community needs flexibility to achieve economic growth, high levels of employment and increased workforce participation.

Repeated union campaigns decrying “insecure work” or a supposed “casualisation” of the Australian workforce are in fact well wide of the mark. The rate of casual employment in Australia has been stable at around 19% of the workforce since at least 2008, and has fallen since 1998 – facts set out in Ai Group’s Forms of Employment Fact Sheet (7 October, 2014).

Ai Group will strongly oppose the unions’ claims. We will participate in a Directions Hearing on Monday, December 22, following which a program will be set for the case to be heard next year.

by Stephen Smith

Steven SmithAi Group’s Director – National Workplace Relations, Stephen Smith is responsible for workplace relations policy development and advocacy. He regularly represents industry’s views to governments, opposition parties and in numerous inquiries. He also regularly represents Ai Group and its members in major FWC cases including Annual Wage Reviews, Award Reviews, appeals and test cases. He is a practising solicitor for and Chairman of the Board of Ai Group Workplace Lawyers, a national law firm operated by Ai Group.

Published - 17/01/15

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