Master Builders National Director Safety, Contracts & Workplace Relations, Shaun Schmitke says that the unions' are continuing their war on causal employment in the Coronavirus context, tells us about the Fair Work Commission's (FWC) halting of the CFMMEU's 'dock-block' in two states and shares pearls of wisdom from a well known IR legal eagle. 

It seems the union movement aren’t going to let COVID-19 affect their day jobs, with the ACTU this week pushing forward with its war against casual employment by calling for two weeks of ‘special paid leave’ for all workers, with an emphasis on workers engaged as ‘contract and casual’ workers. Anyone whose been around industrial relations might cynically observe how current circumstances have been adapted to fuel the false narrative that casual work involves ‘insecure and vulnerable workers’ and is a ‘growing crisis’ with ‘1 in 3’ workers are ‘cruelly denied’ leave entitlements.

The facts are that casuals have ‘conversion’ rights to request permanent employment, casual workers make up the same proportion of the workforce as they did 20+ years ago, casuals receive higher pay in lieu of receiving paid leave, and casuals have the same rights as permanent workers to take sick leave (albeit, unpaid at the time due to the extra paid at the time they work). Nonetheless, the Australian Greens have responded by announcing they will introduce a “Fair Work Amendment (COVID 19) Bill” to provide for 14 days paid leave, while the ALP has criticised the Government’s COVID response arguing that swifter access to sickness benefits won’t go near replacing the earnings of ‘casual and contract’ workers.

FWC brings halt to CFMMEU dock block

On Wednesday the CFMMEU had to be ordered by the FWC to stop an illegal ‘go slow’ at Webb Dock in Melbourne, which reduced container movements by over 30 percent. The Tasmanian Government confirmed that the CFMMEU's illegal actions had led to “significant backlogs at both ends of the shipping run from Melbourne to Burnie, causing shortages of some consumer goods and raw materials, while also preventing exports of fresh produce from getting to the mainland.” Timing is everything…

“significant backlogs at both ends of the shipping run from Melbourne to Burnie, causing shortages of some consumer goods and raw materials, while also preventing exports of fresh produce from getting to the mainland.”

Amendola comes out fighting

Leading IR expert Steven Amendola fought back against union conduct and campaigns this week (while also reinforcing the ‘less is more’ principle) in comments made during an interview with Workplace Express, with some of the highlights reproduced below:

  • On proposed wage theft laws: "But every time they [employers] do it, you've got unions talking about it being an epidemic and then using a very pejorative phrase [wage theft], which I think is bullsh*t. Does that mean industrial action is productivity theft? And then you've got this view that people are deliberately gaming the system and, therefore, from an enforcement perspective, let's look at more draconian ways to deal with it….the percentage of shyster employers will remain shyster no matter the regulation is.”
  • On deregistering the CFMMEU: "You'd be mad, at least under the system now they're an entity, you can sue them.”
  • On Modern Awards: "We call them modern awards, but they're not that modern. The way in which you deal with the future of work is by going back to past practices. What does that say about the modernity of our system?"
  • On casual and contract employment:There are employers who want people to be able to have needs filled when they need them. There are people who are either contractors or employees who wanted to be able to work more flexibly, work from home, work at a time that suits them. And this regulatory system doesn't really recognise that.”

 

There are employers who want people to be able to have needs filled when they need them.

Shaun Schmitke

National Director, Safety, Contracts, Workplace Relations

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