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Australia – Staffing industry criticises union demands on workers’ rights

08 February 2013

An Australian union this week called for a wider application of the portable leave scheme which allows workers to transfer their annual leave and entitlements when they move jobs. But the trade body representing the staffing industry in the country dismissed the demands, which aim to oust flexible working arrangements.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) secretary, Dave Oliver, said the transferrable scheme should protect workers, particularly those with “insecure” jobs. Some people, he said, changed employers several times a week which meant that annual leave and sick leave did not “translate well.” Similar schemes existed in the construction industry, he said.

The Recruitment and Consulting Services Association (RCSA), which represents 4,400 members in Australia and New Zealand, said it was “frustrated by union misrepresentations” of what Australian workers want.

RCSA president, Lincoln Crawley, said all Australian employees receive payment for annual leave and sick leave, regardless of whether they are casual employees, fixed-term contract employees or others. 

“Virtually all casual employees, when given the opportunity to forego their casual loading return for permanent employment resoundingly choose casual employment,” he said. Casual loading compensates casual employees for entitlements they do not receive, including paid annual leave and sick leave.

He went on to say that “there are many decisions from Australia’s industrial tribunals which confirm that casual loadings include compensation for annual leave and sick leave, among other things, and to suggest that all employees should have to forego casual employment is failing to respect worker preferences.”

The RCSA said the ACTU campaign to eliminate flexible work from the Australian economy is out-dated and misinformed. “Attempts by the ACTU to superimpose permanent employment on Australian business, when business has an increasingly limited capacity to sustain such forms of employment in a volatile economy, will undermine productivity and drive jobs overseas,” said Mr Crawley. 

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