Policies, Publications & Submissions: 2017

Inquiry into Establishing a Modern Slavery Act in Australia

Media Release - May 4, 2017

ACTU Submission to the Inquiry into Establishing a Modern Slavery Act in Australia

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Productivity Commission Draft Report – Superannuation: Alternative Default Models

Media Release - April 28, 2017

ACTU Submission to the Productivity Commission Draft Report into Superannuation: Alternative Default Models

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ACTU Submission to the Inquiry into the Fair Work Amendment (Protecting Vulnerable Workers) Bill 2017

Media Release - April 11, 2017

The exploitation of workers especially temporary visa holders has become a business model for some employers.

Unfortunately, examples of exploitation are no longer rare. Rather, these practices have become normalized and are particularly prevalent in some sectors. A good example was the widespread exploitation of international student visa holders working in 7-Eleven stores across Australia. We need to examine the structural factors that create the vulnerability of temporary visa workers and predispose them to exploitation.

The coercion of temporary visa workers into breaching their visa conditions was particularly pertinent to the plight of international student visa workers in the7-Eleven scandal and while the ACTU welcomes many of the measures in this Bill we believe there is much more that can be done to address systemic exploitation of temporary work visa holders.

Businesses like 7 Eleven, Caltex, Pizza Hut and others must take responsibility for their flawed business models. Similarly, the government must ensure rampant exploitation of workers through the underpayment of wages cannot be normal practice for some firms any longer. What is clear from these recent wage scandals is that business size is not a guarantee against widespread breaches of workplace laws, neither is commercial success, nor is being a common household name present on many high streets.

Temporary Migrant workers – estimated to make up 10% of the workforce – are particularly susceptible to exploitation by employers. Most temporary migrant workers are present in poorly regulated industries; agriculture, meat processing, hospitality and accommodation have a particular high concentration. The ACTU fears that exploitation has become systemic in many sectors and noncompliance of workplace laws has been long standing. While this Bill, in many ways, is recognition of the scale of the problem, the provisions of the Bill do not go far enough if the Government is to truly address the systemic exploitation of temporary work visa holders. Below we explain where the Governments proposals are lacking and can be improved upon.

Unfortunately the prevalence of wage theft in some recent examples of exploitation of vulnerable workers is a clear sign that this has been the prevailing business model. A 7 Eleven internal survey taken in July and August 2015 indicated that 69% of franchisees had payroll issues including fraud (the Four Corners episode quoted a 7 Eleven Australia insider as saying that all franchisees were involved in wage fraud).

As former Australian Consumer Commission observed in relation to the 7-Eleven ‘the business model will only work for the franchisee if they underpay or overwork employees’

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ACTU submission to the Annual Wage Review 2016-17

Media Release - March 31, 2017

The ACTU is calling for an increase to the National Minimum Wage for full-time adults of$45 per week, to $717.70 per week or $18.89 per hour.

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ACTU submission to the inquiry into Innovation and Creativity: Workforce for the New Economy

Media Release - March 28, 2017


Even the most casual observer of the Australian economy is aware that we are entering a period of change. What is equally clear is that this change demands a measured and planned response from government. One of the core assumptions of this inquiry is that the ‘new economy’ is a discrete, known entity which can be examined and solutions to the issues it creates developed. But fifteen years ago the job title ‘Social Media Manager’ would have been considered nonsense. The internet, mobile phones, smart phones and portable computers and all their associated employment opportunities were largely unpredicted by futurists and economic planners. While we can make educated assumptions (future jobs are likely to require greater levels of digital literacy for example) and attempt to extrapolate from current trends, as the CSIRO have done in their recent report “Tomorrow’s Digitally Enabled Workforce”1, it remains largely impossible to be sure about the precise nature of the new economy. Perhaps the only certainty is that change is coming. If this is true then then only responsible course for the government to take is to ensure that the Australian economy is as well-placed as possible to adapt to that change. Change will be fast paced and technological change will have impacts across the entire economy. The only way to make sure this transition is smooth is to start now, to ensure that Australia is able to address future challenges and opportunities from a position of strength.

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Gender Segregation in the Workplace and its impact on women’s economic equality

Media Release - March 28, 2017

Gender segregation remains a stubborn feature of our labour market. Women are more likely to work in lower paid roles and lower paid fields, are more likely to work part-time or casually, and are more likely to take breaks from paid employment to provide unpaid care for others. Over their lifetimes, as a consequence, they will earn significantly less than men.

The gender pay gap in Australia has not shifted in two decades and the economic disparity between women and men around the world is rising. The World Economic Forum estimated that at current rates, it would take another 170 years to close the global pay gap between men and women. This injustice must not be allowed to continue.

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ACTU Submission to the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women

Media Release - March 28, 2017

The Australian union movement has been at the forefront of efforts to raise awareness internationally about the benefits of engaging workplaces as part of a broader strategy to reduce the prevalence of violence against women and minimise its impacts.

In 2015, the ACTU mounted an historic test case in Australia’s national workplace relations tribunal, the Fair Work Commission (FWC), seeking a new minimum employment standard of up to 10 days paid leave per year for employees subjected to family and domestic violence. This test case represents the first attempt anywhere in the world to provide a nationally consistent entitlement to paid family and domestic violence leave for both public and private sector workers.

The ACTU continues to play a significant role in assisting the deliberations of the International Labour Organization (ILO), whose International Labour Conference (ILC) will begin the process of setting a new standard on violence against women and men in the world of work at its meeting in June 2018.

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The incidence of, and trends in, corporate avoidance of the Fair Work Act 2009

Media Release - March 28, 2017

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (‘ACTU’) is pleased to make a submission to this Inquiry. The ACTU is the peak body representing almost 2 million working Australians. The ACTU and its affiliated unions have a long and proud history of representing workers’ industrial and legal rights and advocating for improvements to legislation to protect these rights.

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Australian Foreign Policy White Paper – A Trade Union Perspective

Media Release - March 15, 2017

“The Conference reaffirms the fundamental principles on which the Organization is based and, in particular, that:

a) labour is not a commodity;

b) freedom of expression and of association are essential to sustained progress;

c) poverty anywhere constitutes a danger to prosperity everywhere;

d) the war against want requires to be carried on with unrelenting vigour within each nation, and by continuous and concerted international effort in which the representatives of workers and employers, enjoying equal status with those of governments, join with them in free discussion and democratic decision with a view to the promotion of the common welfare”

ILO Founding Principles, 1919

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