Via The Guardian:
Sally McManus has labelled insecure work a “virus”, calling for a target to halve the proportion of insecure jobs in Australia by the end of the decade.
The secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions will make the call in a major speech on Wednesday, warning the government that unions are prepared to fight if it cuts super rises and sides with employers over cuts to workers’ take-home pay.
The speech to the National Press Club comes ahead of the release of the Coalition’s industrial relations omnibus bill, expected to simplify conditions in the retail, hospitality and restaurant sectors by endorsing employers’ bid to replace penalty rates with a higher base rate of pay.
The bill is also expected to bolster secure work by giving casuals a right to convert to permanent positions after an extended period of employment.
According to an advance copy of the speech, McManus says the coronavirus pandemic had shown the biggest weakness in Australia’s defences and the social contract is “the fact we have far too many insecure, casualised, labour hire, gig jobs that have no security and few rights”.
McManus cites the “shameful tragedy” of five delivery drivers killed in the last two months as an example of workers abandoned by the government, tech giants and inadequate workplace laws.
She says that in 2020 “our levels of casual insecure work threatened the health of everyone and damages the whole of the economy”.
McManus says “insecure work was literally spreading the virus”, citing “2.1 million workers who [had] no choice but to work more than one job just to string together a living wage” as a risk factor.
First, lifting the super guarantee has no intellectual substance left. Modeling released by the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) has revealed that lifting the compulsory superannuation guarantee (SG) by 2.5% to 12% would reduce wage growth by 1.75%:
The figures are contained in documents compiled by the RBA in January – before the COVID-19 pandemic and economic slump – which forecast the increase in the superannuation guarantee from 9.5 to 12 per cent “will be largely passed through by lower wage increases from 2021″…
According to a briefing paper drafted by RBA economist Taylor Nugent, the first 0.5 percentage point increase next year will result in an immediate 0.27 per cent reduction in wages growth by June 2022.
Over the longer-term, given the “pass-through” of superannuation increases onto workers, Mr Nugent said that “long-run wages levels under each of these profiles are about 1.75 per cent below what they otherwise would have been”.
This accords with the Australian Treasury’s 650-page retirement incomes review:
[The report] warns workers are facing a “trade off” with lower wages if employers are forced to increase super.
News.com.au has confirmed the Treasury report, which has been completed and handed to Treasurer Josh Frydenberg…
[The report] repeatedly raises concerns over the “trade off” between higher super and lower wages.
Several independent analysts (i.e. not commissioned by industry) have also concluded that raising the SG will lower wages growth (other things equal), including:
- The Henry Tax Review;
- The Grattan Institute;
- The Parliamentary Budget Office; and
- The Australian Council of Social Service.
Second, it has taken years to beat sense into McManus on immigration as well. And she is still only halfway there. During the pandemic shutdowns she demanded cheap foreign workers be subsidised when they simply should have gone home:
“If people are stuck in our country, we can’t let them starve”. Many visa workers can’t leave the country and the borders are closed. The union won #JobKeeper wage subsidy must be extended for visa workers and more casuals. #wagesubsidyforall #leavenoworkerbehind @sallymcmanus pic.twitter.com/MPVCPSO30g
— Australian Unions (@unionsaustralia) April 8, 2020
This as Australian workers suffered through the largest output gap since the Great Depression:
McManus’ recently announced recovery “plan” made no mention of the mass immigration wave that is the primary driver of insecure work:
Improve the quality and security of jobs by creating 2 million new permanent jobs and halving the number of insecure jobs.
The growth of insecure work is no accident. It is a result of a conscious business model that promotes the fragmentation of traditional employment arrangements and the shifting of financial risk from employers to workers. Casual workers, gig workers, workers employed by labour hire firms or on contracts were the first to lose their jobs in this crisis and the last to receive (and in many cases are yet to receive) any government support to keep them in employment. We need to restore balance to our labour market. To do this we need to revise our labour laws and labour market institutions; re-visit our wage fixing mechanisms; reconsider the unfettered expansion of precarious employment arrangements; and strengthen the capacity for workers to protect their rights and genuinely participate in change by organising in their trade unions. Secure jobs, higher pay and genuine consultation will drive productivity, lift living standards, increase domestic demand and lay the ground-work for rebuilding Australia and a better life for working people…
Lift wages and living standards.
This crisis has highlighted the critical nature of the work of many of the lowest paid and precarious workers in Australia who have led us through this crisis – health workers, supermarket workers, transport and logistics, agricultural workers, aged-care workers, cleaners and many others. We need to prioritise ensuring that workers are properly valued, including through reinvigorating collective bargaining, reducing insecure work and establishing a new Living Wage…
We need changes that increase workers’ bargaining power so that wage growth occurs across whole industries and lifts both domestic demand and living standards…
Strengthening and investing in public and community services that are our first line of defence against ‘shocks’ like COVID-19, bushfires and drought.
We need to ensure crucial services remain in public ownership and are properly funded. We need public investment in public services and institutions – not cuts and austerity measures. The crisis
shows that some critical services that we have relied upon the market to deliver, such as aviation, research and development, regional media, energy, utilities, transport, education and health need more active ownership, control and investment by government…
Support nation-building projects that create decent jobs and set Australia up for a better future.
In the wake of the Great Depression governments committed to building the Great Ocean Road. After World War 2 the nation embarked upon the Snowy Hydro Scheme. We need to take advantage of the historically low cost of borrowing money to invest in large national projects that create a lasting benefit to the nation, creating hundreds of thousands of new additional, secure jobs. Key priorities could include government investment in public transport projects, inter-city fast rail, sustainable public and community housing, new hospitals, schools & TAFEs and electricity transmission network upgrades…
Education and training.
As important as investing in physical infrastructure is investing in social capacity through skills and training. Too much of our education system has been reliant on exporting education to full fee paying international students, As our third-largest export, education has failed to deliver secure jobs and increasing incomes for the majority of the people who work in the industry. With the collapse of people being able to freely move around the globe the entire industry is in crisis…
Dealing with the crisis of climate change.
Many nations around the world are looking to rebuild their economies in ways that reduce emissions and the physical and social impacts of climate change and restore nature. Australian Unions call on the Federal Government to align our economic recovery with a goal of achieving net zero emissions by mid-century at the latest and to make a greater contribution to global efforts under the Paris Agreement…
Improve social, health and economic outcomes for people and communities that experience disadvantage.
While improving the quality and security of jobs will improve our domestic economy and deliver significant progress towards addressing inequality in Australia, further interventions are necessary. Australian unions support actions and investment to improve public and social housing, address homelessness, and invest in physical and social infrastructure in Aboriginal communities…
Embrace industry policy and ‘Australian made’.
The international economy will recover much more slowly than our domestic economy. As highlighted above we need to bolster both supply and demand locally. This will require initiatives to build domestic demand, support Australian businesses, create good jobs and ensure that workers have the income to buy more of the products and services produced and provided within Australia…
Yet we saw it again and again and again over the past cycle. A ready supply of cheap foreign workers displaced Aussies, promoted a boom in labour hire, dissolved IR rules, delivered a plague of exploitative practices and a pandemic of wage theft.
Like Labor, McManus has made a few noises about too many temporary worker visas but she still supports mass immigration which is almost as bad.
The fact is, like Labor, the ACTU has no idea how to lift wages and diminish insecure work. It simply will not happen while Australia welcomes a permanent labour supply shock into an economy sporting a giant output gap, a circumstance that has prevailed for a decade while Ms McManus signaled her virtue.