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PIAA says casuals ruling a king hit

Wednesday, 19 September 2018
By Jake Nelson

Impact: Casuals ruling

Printing Industries has condemned a unanimous decision by the full bench of the Federal Court that potentially awards annual leave entitlements to many casual workers, saying it will put print and packaging jobs at risk.

The Association has come out with all guns blazing, with the president Walter Kuhn, Board director John Georgantzakos, and CEO Andrew Macaulay all lambasting the ruling.

Alarming: Walter Kuhn, PIAA.

Walter Kuhn, president of the PIAA, said the decision was alarming. “This decision is a king hit on the livelihoods of Australian employers and employees – in particular small businesses. 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.”

The ruling came from WorkPac Pty Ltd v Skene and was in favour of a truck driver employed at a Rio Tinto mine, who argued that despite being employed as a casual worker, the regular nature of his rostered days meant he was owed approximately $21,000 in annual leave and $7000 in interest.

According to Kuhn, the decision jeopardises the extra pay and flexibility that accompanies a casual position. “Inflexible rules in most workplace awards mean casual employees, who might be deemed permanent because of the Court’s decision, may be locked into fixed hours. That means they lose out on being able to choose their shifts, change their hours or pick up extra hours when they become available.

“A casual employee is generally paid a higher rate to make up for the fact that they don’t get permanent employee entitlements such as paid leave,” he said.

Macaulay warns that printers may have to consider not only how they manage casual hires going forward, but whether they are vulnerable to past liabilities. “There are printers who could be exposed, not because of what they’re going to do, but because of what they have already done,” he said.

Unfair: John Georgantzakos, PIAA.

SpotPress managing director and PIAA director, John Georgantzakos said, “This decision has the potential to create billions of dollars in liabilities for Australian businesses, most of which are small businesses.

“How can it be fair that an employer can pay a higher casual rate in lieu of things like paid leave, follow the rules in their award or enterprise agreement – and then face penalties and have to pay again for leave? To a lot of people, it looks like double-dipping.

“People running small businesses have told me this could send them to the wall and that means thousands of people could lose their jobs.

“What’s more if businesses are bankrupted and employees laid off, the existing Government guarantee of termination entitlements will see taxpayers foot the bill.

“This highlights yet again how our workplace relations laws are poorly designed for the job they need to do. Parliament urgently needs to change the Fair Work Act so it is clear people employed and paid as casual employees, are casual employees. Employers and employees need to have certainty and confidence about their futures.”

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