(Australian Associated Press)
A split has erupted between Australia’s peak body for unions and the coalition government over legislation designed to allow more casual workers to convert to permanent.
Industrial Relations Minister Kelly O’Dwyer introduced the bill to the lower house on Wednesday, with the government hailing the move as a balanced approach for casual employment.
The Australian Council of Trade of Unions is pushing Labor to vote against the legislation, claiming the bill could allow employers to arbitrarily determine who is or isn’t a casual.
“It relies on an employer’s designation of someone as a casual rather than the characteristics of their work itself, which is a serious error,” ACTU president Michele O’Neil said.
She said the bill would allow employers to sue people who go to the Fair Work Commission to enforce their rights without first attempting to negotiate with their employer directly for conversion.
“We oppose this bill which is inadequate and counter-productive. It has the capacity to do far more harm than good,” Ms O’Neil said.
But the government and employer groups have downplayed those concerns, arguing the proposed laws’ casual designation is limited to whether a worker is eligible to make a request for conversion.
The move would extend a Fair Work Commission decision to provide eligible award-reliant casual employees with a right to request to convert to full-time or part-time employment.
Labor’s workplace relations spokesman Brendan O’Connor says his party is reserving its position.
“The government’s indicated that the bill reflects the Fair Work Commission about conversion of casual,” he told reporters in Canberra.
“We have to look at that and make sure that’s the case.”
The minister said if regulation was too onerous, employers could be less willing to create jobs.
“If award-reliant employees have the right to make a request and it is subject to reasonable safeguards for employers, it is only fair that the same right is extended to other casuals who currently do not have the same right,” Ms O’Dwyer said.