Safe Rates needed to protect entitlements

Release date: 8/03/2011

The Transport Workers Union (TWU) wants contractors, casual employees and labour hire employees to have increased protection through changes to legislation after WorkChoices stripped protections for transport workers in NSW and Queensland.

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Ewin Hannan, The Australian

TWU national secretary Tony Sheldon, the federal secretary of the Transport Workers Union, said the strategy sought to re-introduce, nationally, employee rights that operated in NSW and Queensland before John Howard brought in Work Choices.

Mr Sheldon said the government would have to change the act for the union movement's ambitions to be achieved.

He nominated wages, an array of leave provisions and workers compensation coverage as minimum entitlements that contractors, labour hire and casual employees should be entitled to receive from their employer.

"It would require a definitional change under the act to how contractors, casual and labour-hire employees are treated, " he told The Australian.

"There is a growing divide between working people with some rights and working people and their families with no rights.

"This is about the difference between what a Labor government does for working people, and what a conservative government stands for." 

Mr Sheldon said before Work Choices, contractors in Queensland and NSW could take legal action to ensure their take-home pay was no less than direct employees doing the same job.

He said the government had failed to rectify the situation through the Fair Work Act and the provisions that formerly operated in the two states should apply nationally. Mr Sheldon said the current arrangements effected the ability of workers to plan their lives as they undermined, for instance, their ability to purchase property. He said he wanted to stress he was not seeking to ban contract or casual employment.

"There are legitimate contractors, as there are legitimate employers of casuals, and there are employees who prefer those sorts of arrangements," he said.

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