Unions launch new inquiry into insecure work

24 October, 2011

Workers will have the opportunity to share their stories about the impact of casual and contract employment alongside community groups, unions and employers in a new national independent inquiry to investigate the extent of insecure work in Australia.

The ACTU today launches the Independent Inquiry into Insecure Work – the first formal investigation of the growth and spread of casual, contract, labour hire and other forms of insecure work in Australia, and the impact it has on workplace rights, family finances, and society.

The inquiry will be chaired by former Deputy Prime Minister Brian Howe, with Paul Munro, a former Senior Member of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission, as deputy chair.

The inquiry, part of the Secure Jobs. Better Future campaign, will be open for submissions between 2 November and 16 December, before public hearings in each state in February and March.

Submissions will be able to be lodged on the campaign website www.securejobs.org.au or by phoning a special insecure work hotline on 1300 362 223 (toll free).

ACTU President Ged Kearney said the inquiry had been commissioned to examine the extent of insecure work and its impact on workers, their families and the community, and to provide recommendations on measures that can be taken to address any problems that are identified.

“We know that insecure work – casual employment, fixed or short-term contracts, labour hire, and contracting – makes up about 40% of the workforce,” Ms Kearney said. “Casual employment alone has almost doubled in 25 years.

“Workers have told us that insecure work makes it harder for them to manage the household finances, to spend time with their family and friends, and to plan for the future. The job of our new Inquiry is to shine a light on the plight of insecure workers in Australia, and work out what government, employers and unions should be doing to help them.”

Brian Howe said he had agreed to chair the inquiry as part of a long-standing interest and concern about how the changing nature of work was affecting the economy and society.

“If the theme of the postwar years was all about security, now it’s all about risk,” Mr Howe said.

“People don’t tend to have those lifelong jobs any more, and with part-time jobs and casual jobs, people find it very difficult to get a permanent place in the workforce and contribute to the economy.

“I am concerned that as work becomes more insecure, it not only puts pressure on the mortgage and household finances if people can’t get decent paid work, but it is also putting a terrible strain on their family lives and their communities.”

Mr Howe said the inquiry would approach its task with an open mind, and was keen to hear from employers and business as well as workers.

Ms Kearney said the inquiry panel would be required to prepare a report and recommendations for the ACTU Congress in May next year.

The full terms of reference and more details about the inquiry are available at www.securejobs.org.au