Senate debates

Thursday, 12 August 2021


Workplace Relations

1:48 pm

Photo of Tony SheldonTony Sheldon (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

[by video link] Yesterday I spent an hour on ABC Radio listening to an awful litany of stories from Australian workers at the roughest end of this country's broken employment system, people who are victims of the insecure work disaster—gig work, sham contracting, labour hire and other indirect employment arrangements; part-time work with zero-hour arrangements; and fixed-term contracts where the work goes beyond the term of the contract. Caller after caller on the program told the human story of a grim reality, where what used to be solid middle-class jobs have been stripped of the middle-class pay, conditions and rights that once defined them. They were teachers at schools, TAFEs and universities, mineworkers, aged-care workers, cleaners and hospitality workers. They were people like Jen, who said she had given up custody of her 11-year-old son to his father so, as a casual, she could say yes to last-minute shifts. She eventually lost shifts, couldn't pay her rent and had to move out of her house. Jack, a casual teacher at TAFE for 30 years, said: 'My pension plan is Lotto. That's it; that's my pension plan.' Margaret, a 68-year-old casual teacher, fought for 20 years to have her job made permanent because she wasn't receiving the super she needed. She said, 'This rarely happens to any of my male colleagues, who retire with very lucrative super packages.' Ian said, 'My son, who is a casual in the disability care industry, had his first vaccination, had some side effects, like a headache, and couldn't work until the next day, so he got no pay.'

These are just the tip of the insecure work iceberg. Faced with a choice between starvation wages or starvation, people will choose starvation wages. It is no choice at all. (Time expired)


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