St Vincent de Paul Society NSW says secure work is needed for a fairer society

10 May 2022

An overhaul of the imbalanced labour hire system and formalising pathways to permanent work should be key actions for the next Federal Government.

The Society has made the call as part of its 2022 election strategy, A Fairer Australia, drawing attention to the challenges faced by people experiencing job insecurity, underemployment and long-term unemployment.

“The current labour hire system is predicated upon disparity.

“I’ve yet to hear an argument that can reconcile the idea of two people working the same job, yet one person gets paid less and has fewer rights,” Jack de Groot, St Vincent de Paul Society NSW CEO, said.

“It is wrong for two people to work at a job, where one person is paid by that business and the other is brought in from a labour hire provider at a cheaper rate.

“There needs to be a system with national standards around labour hire licencing to ensure that workers are not taken advantage of due to a practice that doesn’t pass the pub test.

“Put simply, if you do the same job, you should be getting the same pay, conditions, and protections.”

Mr de Groot also noted the need for greater security in the workforce in light of years of employers preferencing casualisation over permanency.

“There is a yearning among people, particularly younger generations, for a return to the conditions that afforded workers a secure job that paid the bills and allowed for leisure.

“For decades, that ideal has been chipped away at to the point it is not uncommon for someone to be working multiple jobs, have little to no time to spend with friends or family and – in spite of those sacrifices – still can’t get ahead.

“If you’ve worked, year after year, as a casual or on a fixed-term contract, there needs to be an improved path for you to gain permanency.

“What we want to see is workers having the option of choice.

“Where people still want to continue working casually because it suits them, they should be allowed to do so.

“But there are so many people who can’t get enough hours and are falling further and further behind due to the increasing cost of living, who want permanent positions.”

Paul Burton, St Vincent de Paul Society NSW State Council President, reflected that the platform proposed by the Society was a direct response to the demand for assistance from people suffering due to underemployment.

“A person is counted in the official employment figures if they work an hour a week, so for a lot of people struggling to make ends meet they have to turn to charities to survive,” said Mr Burton.

“Our members are able to help with food and other assistance, but it’s only covering up the cracks that have been ingrained in the system.

“For too long, governments have relied upon charities to fill the gaps that they haven’t adequately addressed,” Mr Burton said.

The Society has also called for an amendment of the statutory definition of casual; a review of mutual obligation requirements and the adequacy of employment programs; as well as greater investment in wage subsidies and vocational training programs.

For more information on the Society’s vision for a fairer Australia, please go to our website.

Media contact: Lachlan Jones  |  0417 446 430