Joanne Ryan MP
Federal Member for Lalor
Joanne Ryan MP

Casualisation of workers

 

Thank you for that perfect pronunciation of my electorate, Mr Speaker, and congratulations on your elevation to the office of Speaker. I rise tonight to talk about jobs and employment in the electorate of Lalor, a community of over 200,000 people. I want to talk specifically about the industry that is warehousing and distribution, that is transport and logistics. It employs thousands in the electorate of Lalor. Some are employed casually through third-party labour hire companies, some are employed casually as direct staff to larger companies, some are employed part-time and some are fortunate enough to be employed permanent full-time. It is an industry I know well. Permanent positions are highly sought after in this industry in our sprawling city, and casualisation is a curse. I know personally from families that I have worked with and from young people who have gone into this industry what life as a casual, working for a labour hire company, means on the ground. It means sitting up late at night waiting for the text to see if you are going to get a shift tomorrow. It means conversations on the phone when the shift you thought was six hours is now two and you have to make arrangements for leaving work that day. There is no guarantee of work for the people employed at that level in this industry. They are 'pickers' and many of them begin that way, as pickers, not necessarily as forklift drivers—there is a hierarchy in this industry.

The warehousing and distribution industry is an incredible industry. It is terrific for young people who work to targets. It is terrific for giving them feedback on how they are going on every shift. I would not criticise that. I believe that particularly young people are motivated by targets. I have watched lots of young people go into this industry as casuals striving for 100 per cent or better every day and meeting their targets. Work is measured by those targets. It is also measured by warnings for safety breaches, because many of these warehouses are incredibly safety conscious—and I take my hat off to them for that; it is measured by near misses; and it is measured by damage to goods. But the trend in casualisation is worrying—it is worrying on the ground for families, it is worrying on the ground for our young people. Many people my age in the electorate, with children in their 20s and 30s are worried. There are many who have been working casually for a long time. They are worried about the house, they are worried about the start and they are worried about young people's futures. Many start as casuals and are lucky enough to move up the chain, to move on to permanent part-time and then to get to permanent full-time.

The Laverton Woolworths liquor distribution centre directly employs 500 workers—it is one of those in the electorate that still employs people directly. Some are casuals doing the guaranteed two shifts a week for four hours a shift, some are part-time permanent, some are full-time permanent. Early on Monday morning those workers went on strike. Last September they signed an EBA in good faith. This agreement guaranteed that Woolworths would not, I repeat would not, outsource employment or recruitment to a third-party labour hire company, but on Monday they were told that the Christmas peak would be dealt with by a third-party labour hire company. This means that direct casual employees working beside them, direct employees of Woolworths, might not get those hours in the Christmas peak—hours they rely on every year.

I empathise with and admire these workers for taking the stand they have taken, because I admire mateship. I came in when speakers were talking about Anzac and I cannot think of any more important discussion I could have followed. These workers are there for their mates, not just their mates employed directly at Woolworths but their mates, thousands of them employed in this industry, who are facing casualisation. And they are not only facing casualisation, they are also looking at new warehouses being built that have robotised. They are looking directly down the barrel at there being fewer jobs. These people need the support of their company. I urge them to work with the company to find a solution to this. I support the NUW in doing that. I would finish by saying that this country needs a leader like Bill Shorten who knows how to work these issues through with business leaders, with companies and with workers. That is the man we need.


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