Bosses pan ALP’s gig workers’ leave plan

Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox.
Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox.

Employers say Labor’s portable leave policy could result in a “very large” levy on business, as the ALP acknowledged its plan to lift the pay of gig economy workers could result in increased costs to consumers.

Under changes outlined on Wednesday, Anthony Albanese said Labor in office would work with state and territory governments, unions and industry to develop portable entitlements for annual leave, sick leave and long service leave for Australians in “insecure work”.

Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox said the plan, if implemented, could add 10 to 11 per cent to the wages bill of affected employers, who would then pass the cost on to customers. “Portable leave schemes operate in a few industries, notably construction and coalmining (and) they are funded by a levy on employers of up to 3 per cent for long service leave alone,” he said

“The opposition’s policy of a national portable leave scheme covering annual leave, sick leave and long service leave would require a very large levy on employers. This would operate as a tax on employment, and destroy jobs and investment.”

Labor industrial relations spokesman Tony Burke said an ALP government would negotiate with states and territories. “It’s something that you would start on an industry at a time, it’s not something that would just be unilateral legislation through the parliament,” he told the ABC’s Fran Kelly.

Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter said Labor was proposing that all casual workers and independent contractors be paid annual leave, sick leave and long service leave. “Either he is proposing that businesses are hit with a new tax of up to $20bn after a pandemic and while recovering from the COVID-19 recession, or he is proposing to cut the pay of all casual workers by up to 25 per cent. These are the only two ­options,” he said.

Mr Burke said Mr Porter’s costings were based on a policy that did not exist.

“We’re simply proposing that we would consult with state and territory governments and with unions and industry to work out where it might be appropriate for portable entitlements to be extended,” he said.

“Remember what portable entitlements are: they’re entitlements that already exist and would follow the worker. What Christian Porter did today was invent new entitlements that don’t exist and then added a value to them.”

Under Labor’s policy, gig economy workers such as Uber­Eats drivers would be entitled to minimum pay and conditions.

During an interview with the ABC’s Patricia Karvelas, Mr Burke agreed that this would ultimately lead to customers having to pay more, but “we’re not talking big bucks in terms of the consumer”.