What Next for Casual Work? Professor Andrew Stewart webinar recording

Casual employment has dominated Australia’s labour market recovery from COVID-19. And the right of employers to hire staff on a casual basis in almost any role they choose – including jobs that on their face appear have permanent characteristics – seems to have been cemented by recent amendments to the Fair Work Act, and by the High Court’s recent ruling in the WorkPac v. Rossato case.

What do these new developments mean for the further spread of casual and precarious work? What are the other implications of the High Court ruling for future employer strategies? And what options remain for limiting the spread of casual and insecure work? To examine these matters and their implications, we were recently joined by renowned labour law expert Professor Andrew Stewart from the University of Adelaide.

Andrew's highly informative presentation can be viewed below:


Fair Pay Agreements: How Workers in NZ Are Getting Their Share

Across the ditch, the Ardern government in New Zealand is undertaking an ambitious and multi-dimensional effort to address low wages, inequality, and poor job quality. NZ unions have just won the introduction of Fair Pay Agreements, planned for implementation in 2022. FPAs will allow working people to bargain collectively across sectors and start to correct the income and power imbalance between workers and employers.

The Centre for Future Work hosted a special webinar with Craig Renney, Economist & Director of Policy for the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions. In the recorded webinar, Craig explains key FPA policy details including design & coverage of the system, and how FPAs can lift wages and labour standards, stop the ‘race to the bottom’, and rebuild worker bargaining power in NZ. The webinar is the first in the Centre's exciting new webinar series exploring key labour market topics related to work, wages, and fairness. Hosted by our Senior Economist Alison Pennington.

 

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The Broken Bargain: Australia's Growing Wages Crisis with Sally McManus

In this episode from The Australia Institute's webinar series, ACTU Secretary Sally McManus outlines the political and legal reasons why wage growth is so low in Australia.

Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, wage growth in Australia was anemic.

Historically, a working class with power to organise and bargain, and a broad commitment to the social wage ensured Australia’s wealth was shared. But the last 30 years have seen a dramatic shift of the share of Australia’s prosperity going to profit and away from working people. The shift in the distribution of GDP from the mid-1970s to today has transferred 10% of GDP directly from workers to corporate profits. That's more than $200 billion – or almost $20,000 per waged worker – per year.

Australians are facing a wages crisis, and Government actions and inactions are making this problem worse.

In conversation with Australia Institute Deputy Director Ebony Bennett, and Centre for Future Work Director Jim Stanford, Sally McManus outlines the reasons why wage growth is so poor, and the way back for working people to once again be at the heart of a strong economy.

Recorded live on 14 July 2021, as part of the Australia Institute's 2021 webinar series. A transcript of Sally McManus's speech is available at this location.


If You Thought Employers Were Exploiting Workers With Too Many Insecure Jobs Before The Pandemic, Wait Till You See The Figures Now

Australia paid a big price for the over reliance on insecure jobs prior to the pandemic. But as our economy recovers, insecure jobs account for about two out of every three new positions. In this commentary, originally published at New Matilda, Economist Dan Nahum explains why that’s a very bad thing – especially in front-line, human services roles. In the context of COVID-19, the effects of insecure work in these sectors, in particular, reverberate across the whole community with dangerous and tragic consequences.

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Why is Job Quality Worsening?

Over time, insecure work has become more prevalent in the Australian economy. Key drivers of worsening job quality include: decades of economic policies which constructed unemployment “buffers”; insufficient paid work available for all who need it; reductions in the level of unemployment benefits to below-poverty levels, collapse in collective bargaining coverage, and failure to regulate insecure work.

In this update on job insecurity in Australia, Alison Pennington reviews the ongoing erosion of full-time, traditional "good" jobs, growth in COVID-era "gig" work, and outlines how business trends and labour market policies have facilitated both lower worker bargaining power and a dramatic rise in insecure work. 

For more on reducing the incidence and consequences of insecure work, see our recent submission to the Select Committee on Job Insecurity, by Dan Nahum. 


Video: Myth & Reality About Technology, Skills & Jobs

We are constantly told that the world of work is being turned upside down by 'technology': some faceless, anonymous, uncontrollable force that is somehow beyond human control. There's no point resisting this exogenous, omnipresent force. The best thing to do is get with the program... and learn how to program! Acquiring the right skills (usually assumed to be STEM or computer skills) is the best way to protect yourself in this brave new high-tech future.

But what if technology isn't all it's cracked up to be? And what if you invest in learning the current hot coding language, only to see it replaced by something totally different as soon as you graduate?

In this 30-minute video, Centre for Future Work Economist and Director Dr. Jim Stanford takes on several myths related to technology and jobs.

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Rage & Optimism as an Activist Economist

Crikey is reclaiming the "angry woman" trope in a new column about what women achieve through rage, passion and determination. In this inspiring and poetic feature with our Senior Economist Alison Pennington, Alison explains how rage about how the economy works (or doesn't work) powers her forceful work as an activist economist.

We are pleased to share the article by Amber Schultz, with kind permission from Crikey media. 

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Expansion of Employer Power to Use Casual Work Hurts Women Most

As women lead mobilisations against workplace gendered violence, the federal government passed legislation expanding employer power to use insecure, casual labour in its IR bill - laws that will disproportionately impact the pay and security of women's jobs.

In this commentary, Senior Economist Alison Pennington explains how new casuals measures and the government's wider economic policies - including in industrial relations, childcare, welfare, and fiscal spending - significantly undermine the economic security of women, entrench pay inequality, and ultimately, increase their vulnerability to gendered violence. 

This commentary was originally published in Michael West Media

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Migrant Workers Abandoned in the COVID Recovery

COVID continues to sweep Europe and the US, while Australia celebrates near-elimination of community transmission. But Australia’s public health success has not come without significant economic and social hardship for large sections of our community – especially migrant workers. Thousands of migrant workers were pulled off the job to stop the spread of COVID-19, and excluded from key government income support programs including JobSeeker and JobKeeper. Temporary migrant workers are still left without access to Medicare. 

In this short, accessible commentary, Senior Economist Alison Pennington outlines how the pandemic, the resulting recession and government COVID-era policies have increased risks to migrant workers’ financial security, and health and safety. Building more secure, inclusive labour markets can reduce risks that future major events don’t hit the most vulnerable hardest.

This commentary was prepared for presentation to the Migrant Workers Centre Conference, November 2020. 

 

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IR Bill Will Cut Wages & Accelerate Precarity

The Morrison government has proposed sweeping changes to labour laws that will expand unilateral employer power to cut wages and freely deploy casual labour. Together, the Coalition's proposed changes will accelerate the incidence of insecure work, undermine genuine collective bargaining, and suppress wages growth. Impacts will be felt across the entire workforce - casual and permanent workers alike. 

In this extended commentary, Senior Economist Alison Pennington explains the main components of the IR Omnibus Bill, assesses their impacts on workers' wages and labour protections, and offers some strategic analysis on how labour advocates can work towards addressing insecure work. 

This commentary was originally published in Jacobin. A shorter edited version was published in Michael West Media & John Menadue's Pearls and Irritations. 

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