No plans for legislative reform - but anticipate heightened industrial tension as unions redirect resources to campaigns on the ground

The re-elected Coalition government didn't take any significant reform proposals to the electorate. Therefore, we are unlikely to see any significant changes to industrial laws in the short to medium term.

The re-election of the Coalition means the construction industry watchdog, the ABCC, and the Federal Registered Organisations Commission will remain in operation.

It is also helpful to highlight the Coalition's plans for industrial relations from the 2019 Federal Budget.

  • casual conversion rights: we expect the Government will reintroduce the Fair Work Amendment (Right to Request Casual Conversion) Bill 2019 to the Federal Parliament. If passed into law, this law will extend the right for certain casual workers to convert their employment status to permanent
  • labour hire licensing: the Government proposed to develop a national labour hire registration scheme for the four "high risk" industries of horticulture, meat processing, cleaning and security
  • enforcement: In the 2019 Budget, the Coalition committed more funds to create a "sham contracting" unit within the Fair Work Ombudsman. It also increased funding to allow the Fair Work Ombudsman to allocate more resources to underpayment investigations. This is in addition to the Coalition's plan to legislate for jail sentences in extreme cases of wage underpayment.
  • PPL: The Coalition has promised, from 2020, to allow families to separate their entitlement of Government-funded paid parental leave into two periods of leave to increase opportunities for flexible work.

In the meantime, disappointed unions are unlikely to resile from their campaigns against what they consider to be the excessive use of labour hire and casual employment arrangements which undermine job security, collective rights and employment conditions for workers in manufacturing, transport, horticulture and logistics. Features of this campaign include:

  • bargaining for enterprise agreement provisions that restrict the use of casual and third party labour
  • supporting class action type litigation that seek 'permanent-like' entitlements, such as annual leave, for casuals (as were successfully claimed in Workpac v Skene)
  • active engagement with government agencies with responsibilities affecting labour hire, such as the newly established labour hire licensing authorities in Queensland and Victoria, safety regulators in all jurisdictions, and Commonwealth departments responsible for the temporary immigration of seasonal and skilled workers
  • pressure on superannuation funds and other investors, as well as large end-users such as the major supermarket chains, to endorse certain industrial standards for labour hire and casual workers in their supply chain.

This publication does not deal with every important topic or change in law and is not intended to be relied upon as a substitute for legal or other advice that may be relevant to the reader's specific circumstances. If you have found this publication of interest and would like to know more or wish to obtain legal advice relevant to your circumstances please contact one of the named individuals listed.