The Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary, Sally McManus, said workforce casualisation would be a key priority for the union movement next year.
“One of the key things we want to change for working people is turning around or reversing the casualisation of jobs,” she said. McManus said she would lobby to support a new definition of casual work, which would include workers who have a “reasonable expectation of ongoing work” and who are completing regular shifts.
Unions also want legislative changes to give casual workers the ability to automatically convert to permanent employment after six months with the same employer.
The ACTU has argued that casual employment was being improperly and unfairly used for “a significantly large category of workers” in a manner that undermined Australia’s safety net. Many casual workers were permanent in all but name, the union argued, and were afforded significantly inferior rights and conditions, despite working regularly for the same employer. That accords with the findings of the most recent Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (Hilda) study, which found 60% of workers who self-identified as casuals were doing regular shifts for an employer they had been with for at least six months.
A 2015 report on workforce casualisation by Professor Raymond Markey of Macquarie University found about one-quarter of Australian employees did not have leave benefits – a method of measuring casual employment.