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Lawsuits, letters, frenzy in double-dipping casual staff stoush

Wednesday, 20 March 2019
By Wayne Robinson

Casuals: nervous time for print business owners who may have to pay back entitlements

Print business owners around the country are watching nervously as the battle over double-dipping of casual staff is reaching a crescendo, as they face the possibility of having to pay casuals and former casuals back pay to cover entitlements, which they thought were in the wage loading.

The current situation with casuals – routinely employed by many print businesses – is that their wage loading compensates for lack of entitlements. However a recent court case in the mining industry – WorkPac vs Skene, which PIAA president Walter Kuhn described as a “king hit on the livelihoods of Australian employers” – has thrown that on its head, and Labor may repeal the law that prevents double dipping if it wins the election, with a senate debate taking place next week.

Lawyers for casual staff and labour hire companies in the mining industry are now issuing multiple lawsuits against each other, the casuals demanding the entitlements are paid, the labour hire companies demanding the casuals pay back their loadings.

James Pearson, the head of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, with which the PIAA is affiliated, has sent a letter to opposition industrial relations spokesman Brendan O’Connor, pleading with him not to repeal the law, which he says will not be limited to the mining industry, but will be applicable to every business in the country, large and small.

The Senate is due to debate a motion by former union leader, now senator, Doug Cameron next week that aims to “disallow” the current government regulation that prevents double dipping by casuals. Unions claims that the ruling will only apply to mining companies, however Pearson says the clear legal advice is that it will apply to every business in the country.

In his letter to O’Connor the ACCI chief Pearson says the Workpac ruling opens all businesses to the possibility of having to pay current and former casuals their entitlements.

The senate debate takes place April 2, and comes three days before the first class action by lawyers acting for casuals hits the courts. If the motion is not voted down it will pass into law.

The PIAA blasted the WorkPac vs Skene ruling when it came out, saying will put jobs at risk. Walter Kuhn, said, “Employers will have to work out urgently if they have to offer fewer casual jobs in case the work becomes too regular, creating unintended consequences and liabilities,” he said.

Andrew Macaulay, CEO of Printing Industries, said the ruling could affect almost every printer in the country. “Nearly everybody is affected by this – most printers’ variable labour requirements are filled by casual staff. Core employees will be permanent, but any business with variable production requirements uses casuals,” he said. “It’s an example of the unconsidered consequences of industrial relations policy that was intended to be good.”

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