House debates

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Constituency Statements

Workplace Relations

4:13 pm

Photo of Stephen JonesStephen Jones (Whitlam, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Regional Services, Territories and Local Government) Share this | | Hansard source

In a few weeks time the Prime Minister will call an election. As workers go to the polls, they will have in their mind the very clear feeling that the price of everything is going up but their wages are not. The reason that they feel like that is that it's true. The average household has less disposable income now than when the coalition took power in 2013. The real reason why is persistently low wages growth.

We're currently living in a period of time where the cost of essential items, such as energy and health care, including private health insurance, has skyrocketed while workers' wages are going nowhere. Workers in the private sector, who are 85 per cent of the workforce after all, are experiencing wages growth well below inflation. Instead of the government doing something to make matters better, they're actually acting to make matters worse. They had an opportunity last year to intervene and vote in favour of Labor's proposition to restore penalty rates. They rejected that and, as a result, hundreds of thousands of workers will have less wages today than they did when the government came into office.

It's not just the level of wages that workers are going to be considering; it's the issue of job security. We're less than two months into 2019, and, in two separate workplaces in my electorate, workers have had to take protracted industrial action because they are concerned about their employer's attempts to decrease their job security in their workplaces. Workers do not do this lightly, but they have understood that, unless they take action to protect their job security, their future family security is on the line.

The government has a blind spot when it comes to this issue, but Labor will act. If Labor forms government after the next election, we will see a situation where employers can no longer sign an agreement with the workforce on a Friday and, on a Monday, sack half of that workforce and replace them with a labour hire workforce on reduced wages. It's not right, but at the moment it appears to be legal. Labor will make this illegal. Labor will ensure that employers can use labour hire workers in a legitimate way, to fill legitimate short-term shortages or to deal with legitimate problems in their workplace, but that they cannot do it as a way of undercutting existing workers. It will be same job, same pay, labour hire or permanent.

As workers go to the polls in a few months time, they'll have two things in their minds: what side of politics is going to ensure that wages keep pace with the price of living and what side of politics is going to ensure that they have decent job security? It's not the government side.