‘We feel like second class citizens,’ workers tell labour hire investigation
NEXT time you stock your fridges with well-known brands such as Vegemite, Big M Milk, Yoplait Yoghurt or Latina Pasta, you might feel you are doing your bit to support local jobs and industries.
The National Union of Workers (NUW) warns many of us are being duped, and don’t realise our spending does not fund decent local jobs.
“Your grocery shop is more likely to be fattening the profits of big companies like General Mills, Mondelez and Lion,” NUW industrial officer, Adam Portelli, told Working Life.
And it’s not just grocery stores — Unions are furious a growing number of workers aren’t hired directly, but get taken on through large employment agencies such as Skilled.
“These companies contract out their employee responsibilities,” said Mr Portelli (pictured)
Now, unions and workers are acting to fight this trend by putting their case to a number of official investigations into casual labour hire across a range of industries.
The first of these, the Victorian Inquiry into the Labour Hire Industry and Insecure Work concludes today.
“The Victorian government has given us a great opportunity to make sure no worker has to live with job insecurity,” said Mr Portelli.
Over 600 submissions were put forward to the investigation and they document the real life human story of workers under duress.
One typical comment from the Queensland town of Morambah states: “The stress/worry is the fact that your job is so insecure, plus your pay is less than two thirds of the people you work with (permanents) it does make you feel like a second class citizen….
We work the same hours and do exactly the same job so why are we treated so differently?.”
Now, similar investigations are set to take place in other states including South Australia and Queensland.
This is a chance to put a stop to the exploitation of hard working people by greedy companies unions say.
“These organisations get to make big decisions about workers’ lives and offer no job security, Mr Portelli warned
“Often they underpay or cheat people out of their hard earned wages and fair employment conditions.”
Unions are demanding change for a system where corporate Australia reaps the profits, but avoids responsibility.
And official statistics show at least 40 per cent of our workforce is in insecure work.
“That means nearly half the workforce can’t plan their lives with any certainty,” said Mr Portelli.
“This is happening not just in the food supply chain, but in teaching, healthcare, construction and transport.”
Even union membership can’t protect these vulnerable workers.
“We’ve had cases where union delegates who happen to be labour-hire workers, are told by the company to leave the bargaining room when it was time to negotiate an agreement.”
Working Life is a forum to share ideas and opinions about work and life, both light-hearted and serious. The opinions presented on Working Life are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent policies or views of the ACTU.