news, federal-politics, Anthony Albanese, Industrial relations, Workplace laws

Two speeches, one from Labor leader Anthony Albanese and one from key lieutenant Kristina Keneally, signal Labor’s intention to make job security and government accountability among the top issues in the upcoming federal election. Australian families deserve greater security in the workplace, Mr Albanese will say on Wednesday in his first major speech of the year. In it he flags sweeping industrial relations changes if elected into government to ensure no-one is left behind. Labor will legislate “job security” as a key objective of the Fair Work Act, and ensure more Australian workers who don’t currently meet the definition of employee still have access to employee protections and entitlements. Major reforms planned include a new system of portable entitlements for Australians in insecure work, allowing them to access to sick leave and accumulate annual and long service leave. Mr Albanese says the ALP will set a standard and demonstrate it by auditing its own workforce – the public sector – and creating more secure employment if it finds inappropriate cases of temporary forms of work. Government contractors and procurement will favour companies that are themselves providers of secure jobs. “We will call time on the relentless outsourcing, off-shoring and short-term contracting that has undercut the capacity of departments to do their jobs and undermined the frontline services Australians rely upon,” Mr Albanese will say. Labor also plans to legislate a fair test to determine when a worker is classified as a casual and limit employers to no more than two consecutive fixed term contracts for the same role. Workers employed through labour hire companies would receive at least the same pay as workers employed directly, under planned legislation. Turnbull and Morrison government workplace reforms will be wound back, including abolishing the Registered Organisation Commission and the Australian Building and Construction Commission. Under the Morrison government, workplace laws have not stayed relevant with the rapidly changing economy, says Mr Albanese. “I’m impressed by the flexibility and innovation shown by Australian businesses as they have adjusted to technological change,” he will tell workers in Brisbane. “But the current government has failed to deliver on its responsibility to ensure that workplace laws have evolved at the same pace as changes in patterns of commerce.” Both employers and employees can benefit from his proposed changes, Mr Albanese says, with balance restored to industrial relations laws. “One of the lessons that Australia learned last year was that insecure work doesn’t just stop workers getting ahead – it can put their health, and the health of those around them, at risk,” he will say. “Amid the darkest days of the pandemic, one of the most confronting revelations was how many workers – casuals, contractors, gig workers – had no right at all to paid sick leave. “Far too many Australians had to choose between supporting their own family or playing it safe for the country.” Labor is not calling time on fixed-term contracts or labour hire entirely. Mr Albanese says they have a place in certain situations, such as projects on a clear timetable or covering for someone on parental leave. “There is a very simple principle to apply here: if you work the same job, you should get the same pay.” Workers who have been with their employee for years without a permanent status are denied basic important things like securing a home loan, Mr Albanese notes. On Tuesday Ms Keneally told the National Press Club that Labor also wanted to raise integrity in politics as an issue in the coming federal election.



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