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“Same Job, Same Pay” Bill Tinkers At The Edge Of Wage Swindles

Written by: Ned K. on 13 June 2023


(Above: Same Job, Same Pay campaign inage from ACTU Facebook page)

The mining and resources industry multinational corporations have threatened a multi-million-dollar campaign against the federal Labor Government's "Same Job, Same Pay " proposed legislation.

The proposed legislation would require labour hire workers to be paid the same as if they were directly employed by the employer where they are sent to work by their labour hire employer.

In response to the threat by the employers, the Minister for Industrial Relations started talking about "phasing in" the changes and tightening the definition of labour hire in any new legislation.

The "Same Job, Same Pay" legislation that passes through parliament is likely to apply to a very small percentage of workers in Australia. Currently the Australian Bureau of Statistics says that 2.3% (319,900) workers are labour hire workers out of a total employee workforce in Australia of 11.4 million.

"Same Job, Same Pay" promise by Labor before the federal election of May 2022 had many workers with high hopes that the concept of same job, same pay would extend far beyond employees hired by an employer defined as a labour hire employer. There are millions of workers in Australia employed by employers who provide workers to large corporations to perform work which used to be done by directly employed labour. However, these employers are not defined by the Australian Bureau of Statistics as labour hire employers.

For example, most public hospitals in Australia have contracted out workers who perform support services such as catering, cleaning, orderlies or security. Public transport has been privatized resulting in thousands of workers being employed by contractors. In most cases the wages and monetary related entitlements are less than if the workers were directly employed.

"Same job, same pay" legislation to have any real teeth should extend to these workers.

The growth of labour hire and contracting out has seen the growth of wage swindles where workers do not even get the measly minimum Award entitlements.

The fragmentation of the working class has contributed to the decline in union membership.

Since 1992-3 when the federal Labor Government introduced the none-union enterprise bargaining legislation and "blessed" neo-liberalism and economic rationalism, union membership has declined from 43% of the workforce to 12.5% of the workforce in August 2022.

Since that time, most unions have still funded the Labor Party and raised hopes of workers that "they are better than the other lot, the Liberals". If the mild "Same Job, Same Pay" Bill is watered down to appease big business, it is likely that the decline in union membership trend overall in Australia will continue. The statistics on union membership show that union membership density is highest in the highest paid occupations categorized as "professionals, machine operators and drivers, community public sector service workers, technicians and trades workers". 

Workers who voted Labor expect the Labor Government to champion secure work and to make wage swindles a crime. This is surely not too much to ask for. Unions need to push ahead with an independent working class agenda that appeals not just to the existing core of union membership but to the great mass of workers who are currently in lower paid work and supportive of real "same job, same pay" laws


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