HON KYLE McGINN (Mining and Pastoral) [ 11.33 am ] — without notice: I move —

That this house expresses concern at the increasing casualisation of Western Australia’s workforce and the adverse effects of this on Western Australian people’s security and certainty of employment.

[speeches and comments of various members]

HON ALISON XAMON (North Metropolitan) [12.06 pm]: I rise on behalf of the Greens to indicate our support for this motion and I thank Hon Kyle McGinn for bringing this important issue to the attention of the chamber. There is indeed a concern about the trend towards increased levels of casualisation of the workforce. Similar to other members who have already spoken, the Greens recognise that there will always be a place for casualisation in the workplace. It is an important way to ensure that we can offer employment to deal with the ordinary ebbs and flows of business opportunities. However, we share the concerns that we have moved to a greater rate of casualisation that does not reflect what we consider to be a normal or acceptable rate. The levels are quite concerning.

In April this year, Business Insider reported that job ads for casual roles on Seek have increased by 19 per cent year on year Australia-wide, with the rate being 30 per cent in Western Australia . Across South Australia and Western Australia, trades and services had the most casual job opportunities on Seek in March, so we are certainly heading in the wrong direction when we talk about precarious employment.

We know that casual work is now more pervasive than it was in the past, noting that most growth occurred prior to the late 1990s. Casual employment grew by a whopping 70 per cent between 1984 and 1998. Since that time and until recently, it has fluctuated around the 20 per cent mark. If we look at figures from employees only rather than all employed persons, the percentage of casuals as at August 2016 was 25 per cent. That number has remained static over the last 15 years. Independent contractors make up nine per cent of the workforce. Casual and independent contractors make up 30 per cent of the total workforce, which is a significant number of workers who operate under fairly precarious employment arrangements. Although there has consistently been more female than male casuals — this issue predominantly affects women — the growth in male casual employment, albeit of a much lower base, has greatly exceeded that of female casual employment. Between 1992 and 2013, male casual employment increased at an annual average rate of four per cent, which was twice that of females at two per cent. However, although the number of male casual employees is starting to approach that of females, the incidence of casual employment is still significantly higher among females. In 2013, 26.7 per cent of all female employees were in casual jobs compared with the corresponding figure of 21.2 per cent for males.

There are a lot more part-time than full-time casuals. The proportion has remained fairly stable over the past couple of decades at about 2.3 part-time casuals for every full-time casual. There are genuine concerns for casual workers compared with ongoing workers. As has been mentioned, casual workers tend to be significantly younger. In fact, 39.3 per cent of all casuals are aged under 25 years. They are more likely to have been in their current job for less than a year, and they are more likely to have no superannuation coverage, which is a huge concern. They are more likely to want to work more hours than are available and to work on weekends, and they are less likely to access overtime. They tend to have much greater variation in their earnings from one pay period to the next, and they are less likely to be employed in certain areas such as the public sector. Significant changes have been made around industrial protections for casual employees. I note with concern the difficulty that can arise for employees who want to transfer from casual employment into stable employment, and to demonstrate that work is ongoing, and, for all intents and purposes, that it can be offered to them. However, they do not have an automatic entitlement to transfer over to the permanent employment arrangement, which can create very real issues for casual employees.

We have already spoken in the chamber this week about the difficulties for those people who want to buy their first home. It is really difficult for a casual employee to secure a mortgage or to get a loan. In fact, it is difficult to get a loan even for a car. Casual employment can create very real problems in enabling people to access the sorts of measures that a lot of us take for granted. There is a real risk in a person having to live from week to week, especially if they have children or dependants who need their support. The lack of leave entitlements creates real hardships for people when they cannot access sick leave, carer’s leave, bereavement leave and a lot of the other leave that people take for granted and have been hard fought for and considered necessary. I not e that additional leave is now being considered such as leave to address issues of family and domestic violence, which is great because it is a very important area. However, casual employees are not necessarily entitled to those types of leave arrangements. For people with children, it can be really hard for them to access child care. One of the problems with child care is that a place must be paid for regardless of whether it is used week in and week out. If a person is in casual employment, not only will they not necessarily know when they will need the child care, but also they could be left with quite high childcare fees for two weeks in a row, with no employment coming in. I do not think that people necessarily understand just how expensive child care can be. It is a real problem.

We know that employment is a key social determinant for people’s mental health and wellbeing. However, if there is precariousness around a person’s employment, it will create very real stresses and distress in their life and potentially the lives of family members.

I share the concerns raised by members about the reluctance of people who are on precarious employment arrangements to raise concerns about safety at worksites. It is a very real issue. People in this situation know that if they raise concerns, they might be the first to be let go. It is a very real problem that all of us should be concerned about. There are also issues around raising concerns if an employee is being sexually harassed, for example, or bullied or subjected to any form of discriminatory conduct by the employer. In my previous experience working in the union movement, it was often the casual employees who were most at risk of a lot of adverse and, indeed, unlawful behaviour by unscrupulous employers. How ever, they were the ones most reluctant to raise concerns around this area. These are the sorts of risks that occur for casually employed people, apart from the fact that they find it difficult to get on with their life and forge a career, as mentioned by other members, and get their foot in the door when purchasing a home. There are genuine concerns about how these people can manage their rights and wellbeing in the workplace. We need to look at this issue. I disagree with the suggestion that potentially no changes to our laws could be made that would help enforce the capacity for people to apply for their casual employment to become a more permanent arrangement. It is important that we look at exactly these sorts of issues and try to reclaim some of the lost ground that has happened for so many people within our workforce. I am concerned that the increased casualisation of work is not a positive trend for the community.

[speeches and comments of various members]

Motion lapsed, pursuant to standing orders.


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