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Australia – Casual, agency and contract workers experiencing difficulty in meeting mortgage payments

18 October 2013

The number of homeless people in Australia with a job is 40%, according to the Centre for Policy Development (CPD), reports the Guardian. According to the CPD, the working homeless are part of a rising class of insecure workers.

The report suggests that these workers are suffering the consequences of work without any guaranteed hours or income, any access to paid or sick leave, and fewer workplace rights than the rest of Australia’s permanent workforce.  

According to the Guardian,  so called ‘insecure’ work has been growing in Australia for the past 20 years, to the point that just 60% of Australian workers have a permanent job. The rest of thisinsecure workforce now consists of casual labour hire or contract workers. The consequence of this growing army of insecure workers is that many struggle to pay their bills, their rent or mortgage.

Over the last few months members and volunteers at the National Union of Workers (NUW) have been surveying people about their experiences with insecure work. Of the casual, agency and contract workers who have taken part in the survey, 60% reported that they had experienced difficulty in meeting their rental or mortgage payments because of irregular hours at work.

One respondent to the survey said: “Because there is no security in this type of employment you actually end up in a state of captivity: not wanting to take holidays in case you lose your position, not wanting to take time off in case work has dried up when you return, making yourself available for every shift because shift lengths are short and there is a need to maximise hours in case of illness, lack or work, or simply the chance that you might not be ‘rostered’ on for shifts that week.”  

One respondent to the survey said that they felt like second-class citizens. Another said that casual workers at their work call themselves Kleenexes after the tissue brand because “they use us for the dirty jobs then throw us out”.

Over the past two years the NUW has been running a campaign called ‘Jobs You Can Count On’ to advocate for the rights of insecure workers and demand fairer working conditions. 

The Guardian article did not mention any of the positive aspects of working as a contract agency worker nor challenge the subjective union description of such work as insecure.   


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