Labor to implement annual, sick leave for insecure jobs

Anthony Albanese has warned Scott Morrison “he’s in for a heavyweight title fight” over workers’ rights as he draws battlelines for the next election.

Mr Albanese will outline his vision for the Australian workplace in Brisbane on Wednesday, centring Labor’s campaign message on job security.

The speech comes amid speculation Australians will head to the polls this year and rumblings over the Labor leadership.

“The next federal election will not be a referendum on the coronavirus pandemic,” he said.

“(It will be) a battle for the things which matter most to the Labor Party I lead and to millions of Australians: jobs. Good, secure jobs.”

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The government brought a suite of IR proposals to parliament in December, including exempting employers from the ‘better off overall test’ in extreme circumstances.

It argued the changes would reinvigorate enterprise bargaining negotiations, which had become cumbersome and often failed.

But Mr Albanese pledged to fight tooth-and-nail against what he described as a “full frontal assault” on workers’ rights.

“We have a fight ahead of us in the parliament, a fierce contest to defeat the worst workplace changes since John Howard’s changes which were soundly rejected by the Australian people more than a decade ago,” he said.

The Labor leader also pledged to work with state governments to give Australians in insecure work portable annual, sick and long-service leave.

The leave would be transferable when moving jobs or projects within the same industry.

The government has also wavered on an election commitment to increase the base superannuation rate to 12 per cent, arguing the COVID-19 pandemic had drastically changed the economic landscape.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg confirmed the commitment was under review, with a group of Coalition MPs urging the government to focus on home ownership instead.

But Mr Albanese said Labor would fight to defend the “needed, deserved” increase.

“If Scott Morrison wants to stop it and force you to chew up all your savings in retirement, to sell your family home and not have income for unforeseen health or other events in later life, he’s in for a heavyweight title fight,” he said.

Mr Albanese pledged to legislate a test determining when workers could be considered casual, arguing the gig economy had become an “an ever-increasing, entrenched” part of the economy.

He warned casual workers faced “unacceptable pressure … to meet the demands of an algorithm” but were not currently entitled to protections.

“We are seeing a depressingly familiar picture: workers scrambling for insecure jobs and agreeing to below minimum wage rates,” he said.

“For these big global firms, there’s a supply of workers on demand, yet no employment relationship to manage. It’s all so easy.”

Labor would push for “job security” to be a legislated factor for the Fair Work Commission to consider in deliberations.

It would also limit “an endless treadmill of fixed-term contracts” for the same role, which Mr Albanese said were often used in lieu of permanent work.

Employers would also be limited to a maximum of two years or two individual contracts before being obliged to offer the employee a permanent role.

Mr Albanese said he would crack down on employees paying less to workers hired via labour companies than those employed directly.

“There is a very simple principle to apply here: if you work the same job, you should get the same pay,” he said.

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