Casuals given chance to become permanent under new ruling
CASUAL workers will be given the chance to make their positions permanent after a year, thanks to a landmark decision by the Fair Work Commission.
Workers across dozens of industries, including retail, hospitality and childcare, have won the right to ask their bosses to give them a full-time or part-time position if they have been working a pattern of casual shifts which qualifies them to become permanent.
The switch will not be guaranteed but the Australian Council of Trade Unions hailed the workplace umpire's decision as a victory in the "first battle in the fight against the epidemic of casualisation".
Business groups cautiously backed the Fair Work judgment - which applies to 85 separate awards - which also rejected a range of other union proposals, including a standard minimum four-hour shift.
ACTU secretary Sally McManus said 40 per cent of Australian workers relied on insecure work with lower wages and superannuation.
"Too many employers have been abusing the term casual, and use it as a business model to drive down wages," she said.
"Permanent positions allow people to plan for the future, to get loans, to budget, and to have a decent quality of living."
Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry workplace relations deputy director Alana Matheson said the "additional red tape" did recognise the key contributions of casual workers.
But she said the union's proposal for a minimum four-hour shift was "anti-jobs" and would have hurt businesses who gave after-school positions to students.
Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox said the union's "loopy" claims - which also would have seen casuals ask for conversion to permanent roles after six months - would have "wreaked havoc" on the Australian labour market.
"Today's decision will reduce flexibility for some employers in some industries and this is a concern given the tough operating environment that many businesses are experiencing. However, importantly, the unions' main claims have been rejected," he said.
Australian Retailers Association executive director Russell Zimmerman said the decision gave casual staff security but that employers needed the flexibility they provided.
"The ARA believes that if there were flexibility in the hours of part-time employees this decision might have made sense, but the retail industry experiences peaks and troughs in trade which are an impediment to offering fixed hours for part-time employees," Mr Zimmerman said.