Australia’s Productivity Commission is being approached by unions to acknowledge the huge numbers of workers currently employed as casual labour. This is likely to be the first step in securing these employees entitlements similar to their permanently employed counterparts.

Unions are pushing for casual workers to be awarded portable annual leave, sick leave, and family leave – effectively making them ‘permanent’ casual employees.

The awards are stridently opposed by employer groups, who see this as just another cost for struggling businesses to bear. Should these measures be forced upon them they will likely lead to further job losses: Many businesses unable (or unwilling) to cope with the increased payments would likely shed staff before losing profits.

But the unions say Australia’s 2.25 million casual workers are being exploited by not having any paid leave attached to their awards.

ACTU president Ged Kearney spoke to the National Press Club on Tuesday telling reporters, “A casual conversion clause will recognise people who are permanent employees in everything but name and give them the recognition and respect of a secure permanent job.”

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