The Morrison Government is pushing for major changes to workplace laws which will give more power to employers and make young workers worse off now and in the future. If these changes are passed by Parliament, there will be cuts to pay and conditions, you will lose many protections of the minimum safety nets, and more jobs will be made casual and insecure.
So, what are they proposing and how would it make work worse for you if the laws are passed? Here’s a quick explainer. Share this link with everyone you know who’s young and has a job.
Workers and their unions all across Australia are campaigning to stop the Government’s drastic, anti-worker laws. The proposed laws must be fixed so no worker is worse off or the proposed laws must be completely rejected.
The Young Workers Centre is educating and organising young workers to stand up and push back against the changes which would allow employers to cut pay and conditions, remove the right of many casual workers to have a say over your conditions and pay in your Workplace Agreement and hand more power to employers.
Join us to stop these anti-worker laws. The system is already stacked against young workers. The Morrison Government has already shown that they think young workers are disposable. These attacks will weaken the economy, make work more precarious and even less fair in the future.
The only way to stop this attack is to fight back and defend our rights and our future.
- Casual work will become the norm with many jobs that are currently ongoing likely to become casual
The Government wants to give employers power to make jobs casual even if the job has regular hours and is ongoing. Employers just need to say ‘casual’ in your contract and you will not be entitled to leave and other benefits such as notice of termination and redundancy even if you are required to work fixed hours each week.
This change means that employers have an incentive and the power to make more jobs casual in the future. That means that permanent ongoing jobs in many industries will disappear making casual work the default of the future.
The Morrison Government says that they will make employers offer ‘conversion’ from casual employment to ongoing employment after 12 months, where a worker has had a regular pattern of hours in the last 6 months. But there’s an exemption: if the employer thinks it would be ‘unreasonable’ to do it. The definition of unreasonable is loose meaning in practice most employers just won’t have to offer conversion to ongoing employment at all.
Many employers will change ongoing jobs to casual jobs to avoid having to give you entitlements like leave guaranteed hours and security of employment. This will impact you in the future. Imagine if every job you went for was casual. How can you plan for a secure future with no security of employment?
- Employers have power to cut pay and conditions below the safety net
Currently any Workplace Agreement that you and your co-workers agree to must leave you Better Off Overall compared to the Award and National Employment Standards – the safety nets which contain minimum wages, conditions and apply to all workers in your industry. This protection stops employers from cutting wages and conditions below a guaranteed minimum standard.
The Government’s proposed changes give employers the power to force through Workplace Agreements that may contain lower rates of pay, cut penalty rates and cut conditions like guaranteed minimum shift hours.
By taking money out of the pockets of young workers, the Morrison Government’s changes will not only hurt you and all workers, but will also weaken the economy, endangering Australia’s recovery from the pandemic.
- Casual workers excluded from voting on Workplace Agreements that affect them
The Government’s proposed changes make cut off more casual workers from being able to vote on their pay and conditions. Currently all casual workers who are employed during the 7 days before voting starts on an Enterprise Agreement can vote on whether or not to accept a proposed Agreement. The Government’s proposed changes will mean that only casual workers who have worked in the 7 days before an Agreement is voted on have a say. This would mean if you’re not rostered on during the week before the vote starts, you don’t get to vote but the new Agreement pay and conditions will apply to you. That’s not fair, it means that more casual workers will be excluded from having a say and employers have more control over who gets to vote on a new Agreement.
- More power to employers to make your work ‘flexible’ – for them
In 2020, as part of the coronavirus response, the Government gave employers power to direct you to change where you work, what sort of work you do without you needing to agree. This short-term, emergency measure was designed to help businesses adapt to coronavirus restrictions. The Government’s proposed changes would mean that all employers will have those powers for another 2 years – even if their business hasn’t been negatively impacted by coronavirus restrictions or economic conditions.
All an employer needs to show is that they’ve given you three days’ notice, talked to you about it and that it’s reasonable but your ability to appeal their decision is severely limited without access to the independent umpire, the Fair Work Commission.
- New, weaker wage theft laws will override better state and territory systems
The Morrison Government’s version of criminalising wage theft will make it harder to prove wage theft and hold wage thieves accountable as well as making it harder to recover stolen wages.
The Government’s proposals are complicated and they are hoping we won’t notice that they undercut current rights. In the ACT, the changes will mean that the brand new easier and cheaper system of being able to go to the Magistrates Court to get back stolen wages is in danger with courts having the power to force you through a convoluted system in the Fair Work Commission which has long waiting times and gives preference to getting employers to agree to give back wages rather than making rulings in favour of workers.
- Part-time workers can be asked to work extra hours without overtime
An employer will be able to ask you to work extra hours over your regular, part-time agreement hours and not pay you overtime. Although you can say ‘no’, this opens the door for employers to force extra hours that are not paid at the right rate even if the Award safety net says you should be paid overtime.
- The processes that protect workers during Workplace Agreement making are being significantly weakened
At the moment, rules about making Workplace Agreements require employers to tell all workers that negotiations are happening and that they can be represented within 2 weeks of starting negotiations. This means that you can get involved in negotiating your pay and conditions at work before the deal is done. The changes would mean employers have 4 weeks before they have to tell workers about negotiations – in many cases this will be too late for workers to have a say. The changes reduce how much information and detail employers have to give you about their proposals for a new Agreement and make it easier for employers to give different information to different workers. Protections that prevented employers from being able to push through substandard Agreements without all workers having an opportunity to consider the Agreement fully and with all relevant information and have a meaningful and timely part in negotiations would be removed or weakened.
- Franchise workers could be roped into Workplace Agreements they don’t know anything about
If you work for a franchise (most of the big food and retail chains are franchises), your local employer can ask workers to vote to accept an Agreement which applies in other branches without giving you full information about what is in the Agreement or how it affects you.
This change is just another way to take away your rights to have a say about your pay and conditions.
I’m a casual worker, how would the changes affect me?
Let’s start with cuts to your pay and conditions. If your pay and conditions are currently set by an Award (this is the case for many, many young workers), your employer will have much more power to make a Workplace Agreement which reduces your Award rate of pay, penalty rates and conditions like minimum and maximum hours guarantees.
The current Award system is our safety net so that all workers in the same industry have the same basic pay and conditions and Workplace Agreements can only be better than that minimum.
How hard will it be for you and your co-workers to stand up to your employer and refuse to vote for cuts? How hard will it be to keep your minimum pay and conditions when your employer doesn’t need to provide you with all the details about how a proposed Agreement would affect you?
How easy will it be for employers to force through cuts to your pay and conditions when there’s no effective safety net? How easy will it be for employers to get workers to vote to accept an agreement when they can choose who gets to vote by only rostering on casuals they want to have a vote?
Even the most basic safety net, the ten conditions in the National Employment standards doesn’t even have to be met in an Enterprise Agreement.
And what about how your employer would have a blank cheque to force changes to where you work, what type of work you do and your hours for two years even if they haven’t been negatively impacted by coronavirus?
And what about how the independent umpire has less oversight and less power to protect workers from cuts to pay and conditions?
Now imagine that all of your future jobs will be just like this as ongoing, permanent employment becomes is replaced by casual employment across more industries and job types because employers can decide to make any job a casual job and don’t have to convert those jobs to ongoing at any point.
And there’s more. This is just the lowlights.
In total, it all adds up to the Morrison Government giving more power to employers to cut pay and conditions, stripping workers’ rights and protections and damaging our economy and the future of work.
Together, let’s stop this attack on workers’ rights and our future! Join with us to campaign against these changes. Make your voice heard.
Sign the petition to tell the Morrison Government that we will stand up for all workers and for a fairer future.
Make a Senate submission or be part of our powerful collective Young Workers Centre submission. It’s quick and easy, just tell us your story about work, and how the proposed change would make work worse for you. Check out the guidelines on what to say if you’d like some ideas. And if you’re not sure how to do it and want some help, get in touch.
The Young Workers Advice Service is for all young workers under the age of 25 in the ACT.