Well, it’s official: we have a new Labor government in Australia. The Labor Party, lead by Anthony Albanese, managed to secure a convincing win in Saturday’s federal election.
This is only the fourth time since World War II that the Labor Party has won government, coming from the position of opposition party. So, it’s an historical time for Australia.
With the country clearly looking for change in key policy commitments, the 31st Prime Minister of Australia, on Monday morning, pledged to change the way politics is conducted in Australia. And with confirmed assurances of confidence and supply from key crossbenchers in the new parliament, we can expect positive change ahead.
In his first address to the nation after being sworn in as Prime Minister yesterday, Mr Albanese outlined his immediate priorities. These are:
- Establishing a national anti-corruption commission
- Advancing constitutional recognition of indigenous Australians
- Convening and employment summit
Today, we’re going to delve deeper on point 3 – the upcoming employment summit as well as looking at the promises made during the election campaign regarding jobs and wages, as well as other employment related issues. In summary, let’s take a look at what’s in store for Australia’s jobs market under an Albanese Prime Ministership and Labor Government.
During the campaign, the then Labor Leader backed the idea of a significant increase to the minimum wage.
At the time, Mr Albanese said if his government was elected, he would make a submission to the Fair Work Commission to lift the minimum wage from $20.33 per hour, by 5.1%.
Mr Albanese had refused to back the Australian Council of Trade Unions call for a 5.5% wage increase as it was higher than the inflation rate. He also rejected the business community’s call to establish a 3.1% wage increase.
The key priority for Mr Albanese in leading a Labor Government is to prevent Australians from going backwards – where wage growth doesn’t match inflation.
Labor Government: The Jobs Summit
Trade unions in Australia and the business community are both angling for change under an Albanese government.
The unions want a minimum wage increase (as mentioned above), as well as better job security and the abolition of union watchdogs. Business groups are calling for the new government to act swiftly on addressing the skills shortage in Australia.
The jobs summit will bring together these two groups.
The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), who are keen to attend the summit, has promised a collaborative approach with the new government.
ACCI boss, Andrew McKellar, said:
“The first priority must be ending the most acute labour and skill shortages in 48 years. Small businesses cannot afford for the next federal government to drag its heels on growing Australia’s workforce,”
ACCI boss, Andrew McKellar
Other industry groups eager to address the skills issue in Australia include the Australian Retailers Association and the Australian Resources and Energy Employer Association (AREEA).
Australian Industry Group (Ai) boss, Innes Willcox, stated that productivity improvements were a shared goal of businesses and a Labor government. He has pledged his group’s commitment to work on this objective. The Ai group is a national employer organisation representing multiple manufacturing, gig economy and emerging industry sectors in Australia.
Respect at Work
The new Labor government has pledged to implement all 55 recommendations from the ‘Respect@Work’ report, delivered in 2020 by the Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Kate Jenkins.
The biggest item to be actioned here, is to legislate a positive duty on employers to safeguard their staff from sexual harassment. This was a recommendation the previous Coalition government previously merely ‘noted’. It’s a hugely positive step for establishing safer workplaces for all people.
Labor Government: Secure Australian Jobs Plan
Although industrial relations wasn’t a central tenet of the election campaign, Albanese did propose the ‘Secure Australian Jobs Plan’ in response to several workplace issues. Some of the key changes proposed under this plan by the Labor government include:
1 Capping fixed term contracts:
To improve job security, the Labor government has proposed to limit the number of consecutive fixed term contracts an employer can offer an employee for the same role to two, with an overall cap on the duration of those contracts to 24 months.
2 Changing the definition of a ‘Casual’:
Proposing to legislate an objective test to determine whether an employee is a casual. The goal here is to focus on the practical attributes of the relevant employment relationship, rather than the written terms and conditions.
3 Closing the gender pay gap:
Various measures are proposed to close the gender pay gap. These include:
- Making gender pay equity an objective of the Fair Work Act
- Strengthening the ability and capacity of the Fair Work Commission (FWC) to order pay increases for workers in low paid, female-dominated industries (e.g., aged care, early childhood education and care, and disability care)
- Requiring companies with more than 250 employees to report their gender pay gap publicly, prohibiting pay secrecy clauses and giving employees the right to disclose their pay if they wish to do so
- Taking action to address the gender pay gap in the Australian Public Service
4 Expanding coverage of the FWC:
The Albanese Labor government has proposed to expand the powers of the FWC to cover ‘employee-like’ forms of work. This means that if implemented, the FWC will have powers to determine the rights and obligations that may or may not apply to gig economy workers and contractors
5 Other measures include:
- Legislating to make wage theft a federal crime
- Making job security a firm objective of the Fair Work Act
- Ensuring the government is a model employer and only uses non-permanent employment when essential
- The ‘Secure Australian Jobs Code’ will ensure taxpayer’s money being spent through Government contracts is used to support secure employment for workers
The new Labor Government has set a robust agenda to address various key elements and stress points relating to jobs, skills, and work security. These are all positive aspects for a strong workforce, and strong economy.
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