Submission to the Education and Workforce Parliament Select Committee on the Employment Relations (Triangular Relationships) Amendment Bill
Business Central Submission
Overview of the Bill
The Bill permits an employee of one organisation who is deployed by their employer to work for, and under the direction of, another employer to be covered by a collective agreement that applies to the second employer. It also permits the employee to take personal grievances against the secondary employer by providing that the employee may join the secondary employer to any personal grievance action they may take in relation to their employment with their primary employer.
Business Central understands that the Bill is, at least in part, driven by concerns that some workers have been exploited by virtue of poor treatment by the secondary employer. The case of Prasad v LSG Sky Chefs has been frequently quoted in this regard.
Business Central does not condone exploitation of any kind. That said, existing law already provides minimum standards that arguably are sufficient to address such cases.
This raises the question of why the Bill is necessary, other than supporting a global union campaign against the use of labour-hire. 2 The narrative of this campaign is that forms of work other than permanent full-time employment are “precarious”, “vulnerable”, undesirable, and therefore should be discouraged. This narrative does nothing to protect the employment of workers who are necessarily employed in short-term engagements.
Furthermore, the union narrative is at odds with recent international agreements on Non-standard Forms of Employment 3 and Fair Recruitment.4 These were negotiated by governments, unions and employers in tripartite fora at the International Labour Organisation during 2015 and 2016. They underscore the idea that all forms of employment have their place, provided they are used appropriately. The agreements do not subscribe to the idea that any one form of employment has precedence.
Despite its apparently benign intentions, the Bill arguably does less to protect labour-hire workers from exploitation than it does to enhance the ability of unions to recruit new members from the ranks of labour-hire workers. This too is consistent with the global union narrative outlined above. The relationship between these elements is illustrated in the diagram attached at Appendix 2.
What’s wrong with the Bill?
The Bill and the underlying campaign seemingly ignore the fact that much work today is by definition short-term in nature and cannot be economically fulfilled through permanent engagements. It also ignores the fact that marginalising short-term work will cost short-term workers their jobs and drive up the cost of long-term work, which will also cost jobs.
Indeed, when added to the effects of the already announced significant increases to the minimum wage, the increased costs inherent in the Bill’s provisions are almost certain to increase job losses far beyond the several thousand already predicted by government officials as a result of the minimum wage increases...
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