A push to give casual workers the right to sick pay has been dismissed by Labor Relations Minister Tony Burke as ‘given up’ despite an ongoing court case for frontline workers by the Victoria Labor government.
The Greens want to use their newfound influence in the Senate to push for legislation that grants a basic set of rights, including sick pay, to workers of all types. This comes after the federal government recently reversed its decision to cut pandemic leave payments to casual workers as COVID-19 infections soared.
However, speaking to ABC Insiders program on Sunday, Burke said he’d rather casual workers have the ability to transition into permanent work more easily “than just redefining everything about casual employment.”
“I have to say that I’m afraid that if you go down this path, you will effectively give up,” Burke said. “There is a place for casual work, but I’m worried if we try to solve that by just legislating everything rather than finding ways for casuals to have security where they want it.”
Just days after the government was forced to reinstate the $750 pandemic leave payment, following pressure from unions, medical experts and industry groups, Greens leader Adam Bandt said that as part of a “real safety net” of conditions, he wanted to see sick pay extended. to all types of workers.
The Victorian government, among state governments backing a return to paid pandemic leave this month, is defending a two-year, $245 million trial in which workers in frontline jobs such as the hospitality, retail and elderly care, are assured that they will receive sick pay when they cannot go to work.
Labor has promised to make safe work a subject of the Fair Work Act, but how this will be achieved remains unclear. It also plans to expand the powers of the Fair Work Commission to set minimum standards for gig workers. When asked on Sunday whether gig workers should be entitled to minimum wages, Burke said they should be entitled to “minimum standards.”
Treasurer Jim Chalmers has warned workers against hoping for real wages to rise in the face of rising inflation this year, leading Burke to swear Australians will see wages ‘move’ during this mandate, adding that Labor intended to reform company bargaining to support wage growth. .