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Morrison government caught short on “permanent casual” case

Queensland Unions say the Morrison government cannot be trusted to change industrial relations to the benefit of workers.

Queensland Council of Unions General Secretary Ros McLennan joined condemnation of the plan being floated today by federal Jobs and Industrial Relations Minister Kelly O’Dwyer to let businesses off the hook for years of rorting casual employment.

The record shows that the Morrison LNP government can not be trusted to change industrial relations laws to benefit workers.

The Morrison government intends to use a new Fair Work regulation to shield employers from any claims for leave entitlements from long-term casual employees, even when they have worked regular and systematic hours for years.

This comes after the Federal Court in August determined that former Workpac casual worker Paul Skene was in fact an employee entitled to annual leave payments due in part to his regular pattern of hours and expectation of continuing work.

“That the Minister would even contemplate using ministerial powers to change regulations to rip off workers, without any approval from parliament, shows how desperate, underhanded and out of touch the Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison Government is,” said Ms McLennan.

“Now Minister O’Dwyer wants to trumpet her supposed concern for workers on “permanent casual” employment arrangements, but that just demonstrates her federal government is untrustworthy and out of touch,” she said.

“It was the trade union movement that exposed and overturned the rort of “permanent casual” employment through the case of Queensland casual worker Paul Skene against labour hire firm Workpac,” she said.

“Unions have also won the right to seek conversion from casual to permanent employment in the Fair Work Commission with no assistance from the federal government,” she said.

Ms McLennan said the Morrison LNP government was desperately grasping for cover after Australia’s courts had exposed its callous attitude towards workers.

A report from a recent federal Parliamentary committee also exposed deep divisions within the LNP about the impact of “permanent casual” employment in regional communities.

Ms McLennan said O’Dwyer’s desperate masquerade comes after several years of Coalition MPs and cabinet ministers denying the existence of problems with insecure work, labour hire and the erosion of good, secure jobs for working people.

“Income inequality is at a seventy-year high in Australia but the LNP and its MPs have absolutely no understanding about how difficult it is for casual employees with no job security or ability to plan their lives.

“We need to change the rules on casual work so that there is a clear definition which stops employers using “permanent casual” as a tool to strip entitlements.

“The Minister should be more concerned with ensuring that workers who are forced into casual work have access to simple and effective recourse so that they can claim their correct entitlements.”

She also questioned O’Dwyer’s six employer-aligned recent appointees to the Fair Work Commission, despite the FWC President saying they only needed one new member on the independent umpire.