Workers protest against casualisation

Union members protested against the casualisation of jobs outside Ken O’Dowd’s office on Goondoon Street on Thursday.

Eilish Massie

Union members protested against the casualisation of jobs outside Ken O’Dowd’s office on Goondoon Street on Thursday.

Assistant general secretary of Queensland’s Council of Unions Jacqueline King said the event intended to highlight Central Queensland’s insecure work ‘crisis’.

“More than one in two workers are in insecure jobs and two in every five Central Queensland workers are in casual work, which means no access to annual or sick leave,” Ms King said.

Ms King said the mining industry in 1996 was characterised by full time work, however, today’s workforce was a different story.

“Now more than half of the workers in the mining industry are insecure, casual, labour hire workers,” she said.

“Most of those workers are earning 30 to 40 per cent less than a permanent worker at the same site would.

“At the same time, the mining industry made $35 billion last year, so you have to ask yourself why they are trying to drive down wages.”

Ms King said Central Queensland’s casualisation of work was much worse than the state’s average.

“The casualisation rate in Central Queensland is 40 per cent, compared to 25 per cent for the rest of Queensland, which is why we almost say it is a crisis figure,” she said.

“It’s a tale of two cities, you have half the workforce who have full-time, secure jobs and the other half who are living week to week and can’t take an annual holiday.

“We’ve heard lots of stories of people being forced out of their homes, living in caravan accommodation, shared accomodation, in some cases they are homeless – these employment practices are what we want to call out.”

In March this year, union workers had protested outside Ken O’Dowd’s office against the Industrial Relations Omnibus Bill which protesters claimed hindered many people’s ability to find full-time work.

While some laws were changed, Ms King said it ultimately made casualisation worse.

“We managed to stop a lot of the changes the Morrison-government wanted to do, but they did get some changes through with the One Nation support and that was to introduce further casualisation,” she said.

“So any employer now under the Fair Work Act can deem that a job is casual regardless of whether the person is working permanent rosters, full-time, or part-time. They can claim the job is casual.”

State organiser of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Unions’ Gladstone branch Phil Golby said he wanted to guarantee industry personnel in Gladstone had permanent work.

“There is a new generation of people who need secure jobs, this whole community needs them,” he said.

“Without them, we are going to have the same problem as we had after the construction of the gas plants.

“They made it so everyone bought real estate, we need to make sure there are secure jobs here so people can buy homes.

“We also need to make sure there is proper training in place for our apprentices when projects move forward,” he said.

“The jobs those apprentices get need to be permanent, they can’t just be make-believe.”

Member for Flynn Ken O’Dowd MP said casual work opportunities offered more flexibility to staff that could not or did not wish to work full time hours.

“The free market allows a company and employee to agree on suitable hours for both parties,” he said.

“Any discussions regarding work conditions should be levelled at the fair work commission, as this is very much within their jurisdiction.”