Peak unions have called on the federal government to widen its sweeping workplace law changes to secure greater job security and more pay for millions of casual workers.
Australia’s top unions appeared during a hearing into the government’s contentious workplace law changes in Perth on Friday.
In its submissions, both the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU) and the United Workers Union (UWU) backed the major overhaul and pushed to expand “same job, same pay laws”.
CFMEU and Australian Workers’ Union (AWU) representatives on Friday gave evidence before the education and employment legislation committee, where CFMEU construction and general division nationals Secretary Zachary Smith called for a “statutory definition of an employee”.
“What we want is for workers to be treated fairly by reference to objective criteria,” Mr Smith said.
“This won’t add complexity, it will simply require common sense.”
He also slammed the Master Builders Association (MBA) and their alleged “disinformation campaign” as part of their efforts to oppose the change.
“Despite the hysteria that the MBA is trying to whip up in the media, this Bill is not going to force tradies to become employees if they’re in genuine business for themselves,” Mr Smith said.
MBA will front the committee later on Friday afternoon.
In its submission, WA’s peak trade union body lashed mining bosses’ criticisms of the labour law changes as a “misleading propaganda attack”.
“Real wages growth in the mining industry has been unimpressive in the last decade and has fallen substantially over the last two years,” UnionsWA’s submission read.
“Wage arrangements in mining have not been working very well for workers. Nevertheless, the profit performance of mining is successful indeed.”
The AMWU, UWU, National Farmers’ Federation, and Australian Hotels Association will all give evidence later on Friday.
The second tranche of the federal government’s industrial relations reforms were brought into parliament in September and include efforts to tackle wage theft, create a fair test to determine when a worker can be classified as a casual and widen the Fair Work Commission’s powers.
Under the proposed laws, companies with more than 15 workers would have to compensate “gig workers” with the same pay as those engaged under enterprise agreements.
The role of Australia’s workplace watchdog, the Fair Work Commission, would also be expanded to enforce minimum standards for millions of casual workers.
Both peak hospitality groups and mining companies have harshly opposed the changes, claiming it would injure small businesses and ramp up interventionist behaviour from unions.
More public hearings will be held in Melbourne on Tuesday and in Launceston on Wednesday before the committee’s report is due in February.