Labor's Secure Australian Jobs Plan

Labor’s Secure Australian Jobs Plan will deliver more secure jobs, better pay and a fairer industrial relations system.

Making job security an object of the Fair Work Act

Labor will enshrine secure work as an objective of the Fair Work Act. This means the Fair Work Commission will have to put job security at the heart of its decision-making.

The Fair Work Act currently requires the Commission to consider things like productivity and economic growth; the importance of work and family balance; and fairness at work; all very important considerations.

Adding job security strengthens our laws and ensures our main workplace legislation is relevant and fit for purpose.

When the Fair Work legislation was originally drafted over a decade ago it could not foresee the emergence or growth of new forms of insecure work, like gig work.

Including job security as an object of the Fair Work Act ensures the Fair Work Commission must consider job security in all of its decision-making.

A better deal for gig workers

Labor will extend the powers of the Fair Work Commission to include “employee-like” forms of work, allowing it to better protect people in new forms of work from exploitation and dangerous working conditions.

This change will allow the Fair Work Commission to make orders for minimum standards for new forms of work, such as gig work.

This will ensure a greater number of Australian workers have access to entitlements and protections currently denied to them by the existing laws.

Labor would ensure the Fair Work Commission has the capacity and flexibility to include employee-like forms of work: that is, intervene or inquire into all forms of work and determine what rights and obligations may or may not apply.

It will give the Fair Work Commission enough flexibility to keep up with evolving and changing forms of work.

Standing up for casual workers

Labor will legislate a fair, objective test to determine when a worker can be classified as casual, so people have clearer pathway to permanent work.

The meaning of casual employment has evolved and been upheld many times through common law. It has been characterised as the “absence of a firm advance commitment as to the duration of the employee’s employment or the days or hours the employees will work”.

The Morrison Government has ignored this and its recent changes to the Fair Work Act give employers the right to define someone as a casual, even if they work regular, predictable hours. This gives a green light to casualisation and makes the problem of insecure work worse.

Labor will amend this definition to restore the common law definition.

Same job, same pay

A Labor government will uphold the principle that if you work the same job, you should get the same pay.

Labor will ensure that workers employed through labour hire companies receive no less than workers employed directly.

We have seen too many examples of companies across a variety of industries deliberately using labour hire to undercut the negotiated pay and conditions of workers who are employed directly.

For example, coal mine workers employed through labour hire being given full time 12-month rosters fixed in advance but employed as casuals on a fixed, all-inclusive hourly rate. They work side by side with directly employed permanent full-time workers, doing the same work for the same hours, on the same roster with the same skills – but being paid around 30-40 percent less.

As casuals doing the same work with the same qualifications, they should have been paid more – the same hourly rate plus the 25 percent casual loading.

Labor will ensure that workers employed through labour hire or other employment arrangements such as outsourcing will not receive less pay than workers employed directly.

Making wage theft a crime

An Albanese Labor Government will legislate to make wage theft a criminal offence.

Labor has always stood for the protection of wages and conditions of workers in Australia and against their exploitation.

This includes wage theft which, since the exposure of the shameful practices of the 7-Eleven franchise nearly seven years ago, is being uncovered with such regularity and scale that it appears to have reached epidemic proportions.

Wage theft appears across a broad range of industries and disproportionately impacts young people, overseas students, migrant workers and women.

A 2019 PwC report found that the underpayment of Australian workers’ entitlements was estimated at $1.35 billion per year.

The Morrison Government has known about this problem for a very long time, and despite repeated announcements that they would act, have still not delivered. They removed it from their own legislation.

Labor will consult with unions, States and Territories, and employer groups. Labor’s federal wage theft laws will not override existing State and Territory laws where they currently operate.

A right to your super

An Albanese Labor Government will legislate to include a right to superannuation within the National Employment Standards (NES), which will give Australian workers the power to pursue their unpaid superannuation as a workplace entitlement. 

Individual employees currently don’t have legal standing to pursue underpayment of superannuation unless it's specifically included in their employment contract or individual contract in particular terms. This means they need to rely on the ATO because of the way the superannuation guarantee charge works.

Including superannuation as an entitlement in the NES was a recommendation of the March 2022 Report from the Senate inquiry into unlawful underpayment of employees' remuneration.

This change will enable the Fair Work Ombudsman and other parties to pursue claims when workers have not received their full superannuation contributions, and will improve the future financial security of workers—women in particular.      

Limiting the use of fixed-term contracts

Labor will limit the number of consecutive fixed-term contracts an employer can offer for the same role, with an overall cap of 24 months.

Fixed term contracts have a legitimate purpose. They allow employers to bring in staff to add skills and expertise required for a specific time period or project, or to manage an expected but temporary surge in work.

But back to back, fixed term contracts have become another form of insecure work. For employees on these contracts, the lack of permanency and security makes it harder for them to plan for their future, including securing a bank loan or mortgage.

Labor will amend the Fair Work Act to limit fixed term contracts for the same role to two consecutive contracts or a maximum duration, including renewals, of two years. There will be a mechanism for exceptions in limited circumstances.

Secure Australian Jobs Code

Labor will introduce a Secure Australian Jobs Code to ensure that taxpayers’ money being spent through government contracts is being used to support secure employment for Australian workers.

This Code will establish guidelines with respect to:

  • The fair treatment of workers, including job security
  • Fair and reasonable wages and conditions
  • Ethical and sustainable practices such as ensuring environmentally sustainable outcomes
  • Compliance with the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012
  • The consideration of local industry workforce capability and capacity, particularly in regional Australia.

Ensuring that government is a model employer

A Labor Government would be a model employer and only utilise non-permanent employment where it is essential, and not as a way of simply minimising its permanent workforce numbers.

The Federal government employs nearly a quarter of a million people and can play a significant role in raising the standards around employment, but over the last eight years under the Liberals and Nationals has itself been a perpetrator when it comes to insecure work.

Labour hire, outsourcing and back-to-back fixed term contracts have become an all too familiar feature of the public sector.

Consultation on portable entitlement schemes for Australians in insecure work

Labor will consult with state and territory governments, unions and industry to develop, where it is practical, portable entitlement schemes for Australians in insecure work.

Variants of portable entitlement schemes have existed in different industries, such as construction, mining and cleaning, for many years. Around the country, state and territory Labor and Liberal/National governments have introduced and administered these schemes.

Portable long service leave schemes for example, allow workers who move from project to project or job to job within a single industry to accumulate an entitlement to long service leave that would be denied to them because of the nature of their work.

Providing for portability of entitlements for workers in different industries and parts of the economy that are newer or emerging would also help ensure these workers have the same access to entitlements as workers in more stable or traditional industries. We will explore options through consultation with stakeholders to assess what and where it is practical.

A better deal for women

Women are disproportionately impacted by insecure work. Nearly as many women as men work in Australia, but women are over-represented in casual and part-time work. Women are also over-represented in low-paid jobs which includes critical frontline work such as aged care.

An Albanese Labor Government will strengthen the ability and capacity of the Fair Work Commission to order pay increases for workers in low paid, female dominated industries.

Labor will fully implement all 55 recommendations of the Respect@Work Report and legislate the right to 10 days paid family and domestic violence leave as a national employment standard.

An Albanese Labor Government will also lead a national push to close the gender pay gap by legislating so companies with more than 250 employees will have to report their gender pay gap publicly, prohibit pay secrecy clauses and give employees the right to disclose their pay if they want to, and take action to address the gender pay gap in the Australian Public Service.

Abolishing the Registered Organisations Commission (ROC) and the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC)

The ROC and the ABCC were established by the LNP government in 2016. Since then, they have become politicised and discredited.

The ROC has been thoroughly discredited by its continued and costly pursuit of a political witch hunt against one particular union for matters going back to 2007. Around $1.3 million taxpayer dollars was spent pursuing the union, only to be abandoned by the ROC in February 2022.

The ABCC relentlessly pursues union officials over minor infractions while doing little to stamp out wage theft or sham contracting in the construction industry or to address worksite safety and deaths.

Building and Construction workers should have the same rights as other workers.