The federal government’s omnibus Industrial Relations bill proposes sweeping changes to labour laws which will generally enhance the power of employers to hire workers on a just-in-time basis, and will put further downward pressure on Australian wages (already growing at a record-low rate). One outcome of the bill will be an acceleration of enterprise agreements (EAs) written unilaterally by employers, without negotiation with any union. These non-union EAs will be favoured for several reasons if the omnibus bill is passed: EAs will be exempted from the current Better Off Overall Test, employer-designed EAs will be subject to less scrutiny at the Fair Work Commission, and employers will have less stringent tests to ensure their proposed EAs are genuinely approved by affected workers. All of these changes will lead to a significant increase in employer-designed EAs that reduce compensation and conditions, rather than improving them – signalling a return to the WorkChoices pattern of EA-making.
In a new report, Centre for Future Work Senior Economist Alison Pennington assesses the major ways in which the IR bill will accelerate non-union EA-making, and considers three specific ways this in turn will undermine wage growth in Australia compared with existing collective bargaining laws.Read more
A year-end review of the dramatic changes in Australia’s labour market in 2020 has confirmed that the worst economic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic were felt by Australians in relatively low-paid, insecure jobs.
Workers in casual jobs lost employment at a rate 8 times faster than those in permanent positions, according to the new report from the Centre for Future Work at the Australia Institute. Part-time workers suffered job losses 3 times worse than full-time workers.Read more
New research by the Centre for Future Work, commissioned by health care industry super fund HESTA, finds that a planned transition of Australia’s labour market away from fossil fuel jobs could occur without involuntary layoffs or severe disruption to communities—if governments focus on a planned and fair transition. That transition needs to include: a clear, long-term timeline, measures to facilitate inter-industry mobility and voluntary severance as fossil fuels are phased-out, and generous retraining and diversification policies.
Released following the UN Climate Ambition Summit (12 Dec), which highlighted the need for Australia to accelerate the phase-out of fossil fuels, the report finds that delaying climate policy cannot protect the quantity or quality of fossil fuel jobs, which will inevitably decline as the global energy system shifts quickly to renewables. To best protect these workers and communities, pro-active transition planning must start now.Read more
New research has confirmed that climate change is contributing to the growing problem of heat stress in a wide range of Australian workplaces.
A report released today by the Centre for Future Work provides first-hand accounts of dangerous levels of heat stress experienced in a range of occupations – including construction, outdoor maintenance work, and food delivery riders.
The report, by a team of authors based at the Climate Justice Research Centre at UTS in Sydney, interviewed workers and trade union officials in several industries, and confirmed that working in excess heat is becoming a more common occupational health and safety risk. The report documents the negative effects of excess heat on physical health, mental alertness, and stress. It also compiled an inventory of union initiatives and workplace best practices for reducing and manage the risks of heat stress.Read more
2020 marks the twelfth annual Go Home on Time Day, an initiative of the Centre for Future Work at the Australia Institute that shines a spotlight on overwork among Australians, including excessive overtime that is often unpaid.
It has been an extraordinary and difficult year, to say the least. Many workers are doing at least some of their work from home, and the standard scenario of ‘staying late at the office’ around which we have often shaped our Go Home On Time Day analysis in the past applies to fewer workers than usual. But that is not to say that workers aren’t doing work for free—in fact, the estimated incidence of ‘time theft’, or unpaid overtime, has gone up compared with 2019 (see our results here). And in many cases people’s responsibilities in their home lives have increased in response to the health and social crisis, accentuating the double burden faced by workers—and especially by women workers.Read more
A new report from the Centre for Future Work highlights the continuing economic importance of Alcan's aluminium smelter in Portland, VIC, and discusses the potential of new renewable energy technologies to underpin the facility's rejuvenation and long-term viability.
The report updates previous research by the Centre on the far-reaching impacts of the facility for employment, incomes, exports, and tax revenues. It also identifies the growing capability of renewable power sources to support heavy industrial activities like smelting.Read more
New research by the Australia Institute’s Centre for Future Work analyses the economic effects of COVID-19 on Tasmania, and suggests how Tasmania can ‘build back better’ out of the COVID-19 crisis, making key recommendations to help Tasmania avoid the mistakes made at the Federal level. Ahead of Tasmania’s State Budget, set to be delivered on 12 November 2020, in this new report the Centre for Future Work has explored what the shape of Tasmania’s economy could look like, and how it can recover and reconstruct after this pandemic.Read more
Public Service in Challenging Times: The Economic and Social Value of Public Sector Work in Queensland
In times of crisis, governments have a responsibility to their citizens to maintain and expand their role in the economy – for both economic and social reasons. This responsibility has never been clearer than during the current COVID-19 pandemic, and its associated economic downturn. Australians are counting on their governments to protect them from the pandemic, support them through the resulting recession, and play a leading role in rebuilding a stronger, healthy society in the aftermath of this unprecedented catastrophe.
Moreover, the economic benefits of providing those essential services spread throughout the state economy, supporting jobs and incomes including in the private sector.
In the context of the upcoming Queensland election, new research from the Centre for Future Work shows that in addition to some 331,000 direct jobs providing broader state-funded public services, 150,000 private sector positions depend on the economic stimulus provided by public sector work. In total, some 480,000 positions are supported, directly and indirectly, thanks to the provision of state-funded public services in Queensland. In particular, regional and remote Queensland depends on the public sector as a crucial source of decent, socially valuable jobs, performed by well-qualified people, earning (and spending) middle-class incomes in their regional communities.Read more
The failure of the Commonwealth to confirm that it will maintain funding for community service organisations could threaten up to 12,000 jobs in that sector, at a moment when those services are critical to Australia’s pandemic-damaged economy.
That’s the conclusion of new research on the economic importance of Commonwealth pay equity funding, conducted by the Centre for Future Work at the Australia Institute.Read more
Workers in most industries and occupations worry about the effects of accelerating technological change on their employment security and prospects. New digital technologies are being applied to an increasingly diverse and complex array of tasks and jobs – including artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies which can exercise judgment and decision-making powers. Some studies suggest that as many as half of all jobs may be highly vulnerable to automation and computerisation in coming decades. The NSW Legislative Council has established a Select Committee to examine the impact of technological and other change on the future of work in NSW. The Centre for Future Work has lodged a submission.
Concerns about technological unemployment are not new. Workers have long worried what will happen to their jobs when machines can do the work faster, cheaper, or better. But the historical record shows that technology has not produced mass unemployment or impoverishment – although dislocation and adjustment to technological change can be severe for some groups of workers, and some regions. The impacts of technology are always filtered through social and political processes; competing sectors of society naturally endeavour to protect and advance their own respective interests, as technology evolves. Will technology be used to enhance mass living standards and make work more efficient and pleasant? Or will it be used to enrich a small elite, while undermining the economic well-being and political rights of the majority? The answer depends on how technology is implemented, managed, and controlled, and whose interests prevail as the process unfolds.Read more