Insecure Work Opening Statement for Inquiry

The Canberra Business Chamber, represented by CEO Robyn Hendry and Workplace Relations Manager Lucie Hood, appeared before the inquiry into insecure work on Thursday 19 October 2017. Below are the talking points presented to the inquiry.

Legislative Assembly
Thursday 19 October, 3:30 pm – 4:00 pm

 Mr Michael Pettersson MLA (Chair) – Labour
Mrs Elizabeth Kikkert MLA (Deputy Chair) – Liberal
Mr Chris Steel MLA – Labour
Mr Andrew Wall MLA – Liberal

 Talking Points

  • Thank you for the opportunity to contribute to the Inquiry into the extent, nature and consequence of insecure work in the ACT
  • In June this year, the Chamber provided a written submission to this inquiry and today’s evidence reiterates the points made through the written submission
  • The Chamber is a membership organisation which represents around 5,000 regional members through its direct membership base and extended kindred network
  • This substantial reach reflects the Chamber’s representative role as an authoritative voice on the Canberra business economy and its labour market
  • By way of context, the Chamber’s June submission noted that the ACT, along with all other states and territories (with the exception of WA) referred its workplace relations powers to the Commonwealth through the introduction of the Fair Work Act to ensure a nationally consistent framework – ensuring a more uniform and simple workplace relations system.
  • Reflecting Canberra’s characteristics as a small economic jurisdiction with close connections to other State economies, particularly NSW, the Canberra Business Chamber has been, and continues to be a strong advocate of a consistent regulatory approach which avoids patchwork or inconsistent economic environments across state boundaries
  • A misaligned regulatory framework weakens the ACT economy by burdening businesses operating across state boundaries and acts as a disincentive for interstate investment in the ACT economy
  • Misaligned regulations increase the costs of doing business in the ACT and weaken the ACT economy which has considerable implications for the local labour market
  • In addition to the need to avoid a patchwork regulatory environment, the Chamber’s June submission purported that the term insecure employment is in itself not a clearly defined concept. Rather, the term is a catch all encompassing all alternative forms of employment that fall outside the traditional concept of a permanent 9 to 5 job
  • The Chamber believes that the broad brush insecure employment term fails to reflect the changing and dynamic nature of work in today’s economic environment
  • The Chamber also believes that the term fails to recognise the very real and important desires of employees who may not wish to undertake full time employment or those employees who would prefer some work rather than no work, even if they would like more hours
  • Employees, for a variety of reasons including caring and family responsibilities may wish to engage in more flexible employment relationships. Therefore, to support these employees, it is important that these types of arrangements are not disincentivised to the detriment of these employees
  • In addition to supporting employees, flexibility is also critical to businesses and growth across the broader economy. Where appropriate, flexible arrangements can provide a win win for both employee and employer
  • As noted earlier, the Chamber is a representative body with a broad membership base.
  • The Chamber, through a variety of mechanisms and media have an ongoing dialogue with the ACT business cohort
  • It is this ongoing dialog that allows the Chamber to position that there is insufficient evidence to suggest that operators of labour hire businesses or those using independent contractors are doing so to avoid their workplace and statutory obligations
  • That said, the Chamber is very strong in its position that if any evidence indicating that workplace and statutory obligations were being worked around or undermined, we would support the vigorous application of the existing regulatory system to permanently eliminate any unlawful practices
  • The Chamber believes that the existing Federal workplace laws governing matters such as labour hire arrangements, casual employment and independent contractors are sufficient to properly regulate the ACT labour market without disadvantaging local businesses operating across state boundaries
  • The Chamber believes that there is a role for Local Government in this space but is of the position that this role should be to provide better education to local businesses who are looking to appropriately and ethically meet their Federal legislative requirements
  • Once again, thank you for the opportunity to contribute to this inquiry
  • I am more than happy to answer any questions you have on this topic. Lucie Hood Canberra Business Chamber Workplace Relations Manager is also present to assist with questioning of a technical nature.