PM pushes need for casual work certainty

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Matt Coughlan
(Australian Associated Press)

 

Scott Morrison has signalled soon-to-be released workplace reforms will settle on a definition of casual employment.

The prime minister wants the hotly-contested issue put to bed, with the government also involved in High Court action.

“When they’re fair dinkum casuals and when people are fair dinkum full-time employed the system needs to reflect that,” he told reporters in Rockhampton on Wednesday.

The Commonwealth has intervened to support labour hire firm WorkPac’s High Court challenge to a decision that found in favour of a mining truck driver.

Unions celebrated the initial judgment, the second time the Federal Court has found workers are entitled to casual loadings and leave provisions if employed on a regular basis.

Mr Morrison said the legal action and Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter’s workplace reforms were making progress.

“We’re getting close to some good solutions there,” he said.

On the state election campaign trail in central Queensland, the prime minister acknowledged casual employment was an important issue for the mining industry.

But he downplayed suggestions casualisation was rampant across other industries.

“The level of casualisation across the workforce, it is actually not true to say that’s it’s increased. It’s about the same,” Mr Morrison said.

“But that’s not to say it isn’t an important issue. It is … People should have security in their employment, particularly when they’re basically acting as a full-time employee.”

Employer groups argue the court rulings expose business to double-dipping of leave entitlements and casual loadings.

But unions are adamant it is a response to companies denying people rights despite employing them on a permanent basis.

“We need to get certainty. We need to get a resolution here,” Mr Morrison said.

Casual employment was one of five areas identified in the government-initiated round tables of unions and business groups.

There have been reports a proposal allowing casual workers to convert to permanent jobs after nine months of regular work may gain the government’s support.

Major employers had previously pushed for a casual employee to be defined as someone “engaged and paid as such” but unions want it based on roster patterns.

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