Union industrial claim ‘threatens full-time jobs’

The Australian, August 18, 2016:

A union claim before the industrial umpire allowing casual workers to shift into permanent work after six months’ regular work will cost the Australian economy nearly $4 billion a year, according to research commissioned by the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

ACCI chief executive James Pearson warns that the “selfish and antiquated” union push, which would also see four-hour minimum engagement periods for casuals, is likely to result in the loss of 19,000 full-time jobs and punish younger workers.

The union claim is being considered as part of the four-yearly review of modern awards by the Fair Work Commission.

The union movement strongly rejects the findings of the ACCI modelling, saying the technique used is “incapable of capturing the economic benefits” of the ACTU’s claim for conversion to full-time work.

It argues the model does not account for the benefits that would arise from greater certainty about future income and hours worked.

The FWC’s decision, expected later this year, together with the looming decision on weekend penalty rates for retail and hospit­ality workers, threatens a major shake-up of industrial awards.

Writing in The Australian today, Mr Pearson says: “If it ­succeeds, the union claim will cost the Australian economy $3.7bn a year, and lead to 19,000 fewer full-time-equivalent jobs, according to modelling carried out for ACCI by a team led by ­professor Glenn Withers, an economist at the Australian ­National University.”

He says the minimum four-hour shift requirement will make it harder for businesses to give after-school jobs to students while the six-month casual conversion requirement would discourage new hirings.

The research indicates that the industries most vulnerable to the proposed shake-up include retail, accommodation, food services and real estate.

But ACTU president Ged Kearney said Professor Withers’s model had been “comprehensively discredited by the ACTU’s ­independent expert”. Ms Kearney has argued casuals are ­increasingly treated as “fodder” by employers and expected to work full-time hours while being denied the benefits and entitlements of a permanent position.