Same pay for same work to become law under Labor-crossbench industrial relations deal

This sounds fair but the catch is that casual and permanent jobs are often not comparable.  Causual workers often put in more hours under worse conditions and thus get MORE pay than permanents.  These laws are designed to PENALIZE casual work and make unionized workers feel better

First responders will have easier access to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) compensation and contractors will receive the same pay as full-time employees in the same role within weeks, after the government agreed to crossbench demands to split its massive industrial relations bill.

The deal will see same pay for same work changes from next year

Crossbench senators David Pocock and Jacqui Lambie last month harpooned Labor's plans for workplace changes amid concerns the government was trying to rush the changes through the parliament.

At the time, the crossbenchers introduced their own bill that created a path for Labor to pass the non-controversial elements of its IR proposal, including the PTSD compensation. 

The Senate passed the crossbench bill with the Coalition's support but the government has for weeks refused to pass that bill through the House of Representatives, insisting it wanted to proceed with its original plan.

In a deal struck ahead of the final sitting day, Labor agreed to split its plans in return for the crossbench supporting its same pay for same work provisions, which have been controversial among business groups. 

Here is what is changing and what is not (for now).

Pay and condition changes 

From next year, labour hire loopholes will be closed, in a move that will require contractors doing the same work as full-time employees of a company to be offered the same pay and conditions. 

The new laws will also ensure employees will not miss out on their redundancy payments, regardless of the size of the business.

Under current laws, a small business is one that employs fewer than 15 people. Some small businesses do not have to offer a redundancy payment when making an employee redundant. 

Supports for workers 

The new laws will make it easier for first responders to gain workers compensation for PTSD from January 1. 

Members of the Australian Border Force and the Australian Federal Police, ambulance officers, paramedics, emergency services communications operators and firefighters will be the beneficiaries.

The laws also seek to offer workplace protections for people experiencing family and domestic violence. 

The Labor-crossbench agreement will also expand the remit of the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency to cover silica and silicosis, in an attempt to better protect workers who use the materials.

Making wage theft a crime

Employers caught deliberately underpaying workers could face jail time under new laws the federal government is proposing.

Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke has repeatedly said it was a criminal offence for an employee to steal money from the till, but not for an employer who withholds money from an employee's pay.

The proposed changes would see a maximum penalty of 10 years in jail and fines up to $7.8 million — or three times the amount that was underpaid if that amount exceeds the maximum fine. 

The government insists criminal penalties would not apply for "honest mistakes".

Industrial manslaughter will also become a criminal offence. 

Three elements of Labor's original industrial relations changes remain in limbo — at least until the new year.

They include minimum standards for gig workers, minimum standards for truck drivers and changing the definition of casual employment to provide a path to permanency.

These provisions, which have the support of the union movement, have faced fierce backlash from business groups. 

A Senate committee is investigating those changes and will report back next year. 

The Greens and unions want to give employees greater rights to disconnect from work and hope that will be considered next year. 

Senators Pocock and Lambie have offered their commitment to consider the remaining parts of the legislation "in good faith early in the new year".

"It's clear that things like minimum standards for gig workers are necessary but we need to ensure we get the details of these big changes right," Senator Pocock said.

“Bringing forward changes that will better support first responders with PTSD will be life-changing and I thank the government for working with the crossbench to split the bill to get this done this year.”

Mr Burke thanked the senators for the discussions they have had and insisted the compromise would deliver for workers.


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