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Andren goes into bat for casual workers.

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Peter Andren MP - Independent Member for Calare

11 December 2002

Andren Goes Into Bat For Casual Workers

Legislation passed by the House of Representatives today would have excluded casual workers from the protection of unlawful dismissal laws had Member for Calare Peter Andren not sought to amend discriminatory clauses in the bill.

“The Government and Opposition were quite happy to pass the Fair Termination Bill covering casual workers with no protection from dismissal on grounds of sex, race, age, marital status and other criteria which are basic to other industrial laws and indeed our human rights obligations,” Mr Andren said.

“I moved amendments to not only include all casual workers under this protection, but also to allow casuals in businesses with more than 20 employees to seek redress under Unfair Dismissal laws after 3 months, the same as other workers.

“The Minister for Workplace Relations Tony Abbott conceded that the lack of unlawful dismissal coverage was discriminatory, and has undertaken to amend the legislation in the Senate.

“I told Parliament that the job should be done in the people’s House - the House of Representatives - but am prepared to accept the Minister’s argument that the amendments may need fine tuning before they are added to the bill.

“Had it not been for my research staff and the parliamentary research service the flaws in this legislation would not have been highlighted, and the bill may well have passed into law with these discriminatory clauses.

“I told the House that here has been a 117 per cent increase in the casual workforce from 1984 to 1999, and it’s a nonsense to say we don’t have an underemployment problem when people only have to work one hour a week to be considered employed.

“The casual workforce is now 30% of the workforce, and 87% of new jobs paid less than $26,000 per year and half of that number earn less than $15,600.

“Most of those in the casual workforce are not the happy relaxed group of workers the Government would have us believe.

“Half of a class of 30 Lithgow schoolchildren who visited me in parliament house today said their parents had only part time or casual work.

“Casual workers don’t enjoy sick pay or holiday leave and have little prospects of acquiring property or putting away decent superannuation.

“Since 1996 I have supported the Government’s attempts to protect small businesses with less than 20 employees from having to jump through the incredibly expensive legal hoops triggered by an unfair dismissal claim.

“But unless the Government amends this casual employment bill as I’ve suggested then there’s no way I can support it,” Mr Andren said.

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