Australia used to have among the most stable, reliable jobs in the world. Jobs you could plan a life around. Now more than one in four Australian workers are in insecure work, writes Jessica Willis.
IEU members will understand first-hand the intrusion of insecure work throughout our sector, with increased casualisation rates, rampant misuse of fixed-term contracts, fluctuating part-time hours and limited term-time incomes.
We have even seen the introduction of the ‘gig economy’ due to some employers hiring specialist teachers, for example specialist sports coaches and instrumental teachers, as independent contractors – effectively denying them employee status.
Insecure employment leaves workers with fewer working rights, lower pay and, more often than not, simply not enough working hours to make ends meet.
It leaves workers with limited or no access to sick leave, annual leave and parental leave, which has only been more keenly felt during the last two years of pandemic.
It means many must take more than one job just to survive.
The proportion of Australian workers holding multiple jobs is at its highest level in the 27 years since the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) began reporting on the issue, with 828,200 Australians working more than one job during the March quarter in 2021.
It is a policy disgrace that the current Federal Government seem to have zero appetite to change, and it’s everyday Australians who are suffering.
The impact of insecure work
The impacts of insecure work are well known: employment uncertainty, financial insecurity, halted career progression and a general inability to plan for the future.
Originally, casual work was limited to those rare cases where an employer could not cover the workload with permanent, on-going workers because of unforeseen workload peaks or temporary short-term staff shortages.
It was closely regulated in awards and collective agreements.
Today, insecure work is a business model used to cover entire work functions, and successive work laws have made it more difficult to protect secure work.
This has resulted in a significant class of workers without jobs they can count on, little bargaining power and reduced capacity for home loans while the cost of living continues to increase.
Insecure jobs have led to Australia having more inequality now than at any time on record and contributed to decades of near anaemic wage growth.
The pandemic has also revealed the risks of insecure work as COVID-19 continues to exploit fault lines in the labour market and disproportionately affect insecure workers. The ramifications of this make it a broader community health and economic issue.
Insecure work in non-government education
IEU-QNT Branch Secretary Terry Burke said insecure work is a serious concern for Australian communities and families, especially those in the education sector.
“Having a secure job is connected to so many things like mental health, food and housing,” he said.
“When people don’t have secure jobs, they have very limited money to spend in local businesses and many barely have enough to pay essential bills.
“It’s simply not good enough that the Federal Government have, over successive years, kept attacking working rights and secure employment, dragging Australians down.
“In our sector, school officers in particular are likely to be in insecure jobs, with some who have been on rolling fixed-term contracts for years.
“While our union has been successful in helping members move into secure jobs by negotiating stronger protections for the use of fixed-term contracts, we need systemic change.
“We cannot win the fight on a case-by-case basis, and it is not fair workers are doing the heavy lifting,” he said.
IEU members can help pressure the Federal Government to address the issue of insecure work through the ACTU’s Secure Jobs. Worth Fighting For campaign.
“Insecure work has been placed in the too hard basket for too long and workers are calling for legislative and cultural change to boost rates of secure employment,” Burke said.
“Workers deserve financial security and assurance after one of the most difficult and disruptive times in recent history.
“We encourage all IEU members to sign and share the ACTU petition calling on the Morrison Government to fix their industrial policies and laws so there is better access to secure and reliable jobs,” he said.
Sign today: bit.ly/3rIfL3l