Australian Economy

Casuals, contractors and gig workers set for ‘potentially massive’ changes under Labor

Work is going to change for millions of Australians.

With the election campaign focused on issues as disparate as the cost of living, China’s growing regional influence and transgender women playing sport, you might have missed it — but the incoming Labor government has promised a radical overhaul of an employment system it says is letting workers down.

“The changes are potentially going to be huge… potentially massive,” says Dr Giuseppe Carabetta, senior lecturer in employment law at the business school of the University of Sydney.

Giuseppe Carabetta
Dr Giuseppe Carabetta sees potentially major changes if the proposals are actually enacted. (ABC News: John Gunn)

Insecure work/life

Changes to boost security will be welcomed by Janine Saligari.

“It’s a juggle,” she says, of the pressures of insecure work.

Janine Saligari
Janine Saligari has endured long periods of insecure work: rolling short-term contracts and temporary positions. (ABC News: Darryl Torpy)

She’s spent most of her career in the community services sectors, helping women from refugee, asylum seeker and migrant backgrounds.

It has been rewarding but the funding model meant a churn of insecure roles: short contracts and “temp” placements that lacked sick leave, holiday pay and superannuation.

Now in a stable position running programs at a neighbourhood house in the Melbourne suburb of Chadstone, Ms Saligari describes her job security as a relief from how she used to live.

“Usually going from pay cheque to pay cheque,” she says.

“Planning was just keeping a roof over your head. It’s really the basics. It’s just, ‘pay for your children, school’. It’s just the basics.”

Ms Saligari wants others to experience better job security, to give them the chance to plan their lives – not just try and line up their next shifts.

IR largely unheard

During the election campaign, industrial relations was not a key issue.

The main element discussed was the cost of living, which has been rising far faster than wages. That has led to a decline in “real wages” (what you can buy with your money) and falling living standards.

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