28 December 2022

Labor is planning to implement a ‘same job, same pay’ system that would require companies who use labour hire to ensure the outsourced jobs are on pay and conditions equivalent to directly hired employees — a fundamental principle of fairness in the workplace, and one that was significantly undermined by Labor’s introduction of enterprise bargaining in the early 1990s. I’m fascinated by the contortions employers are going through to complain about the proposal [$]. First, they trot out Mark Wooden to argue that “labour hire workers usually receive a wage premium” — in which case, what are they worried about? Next, the IR extremists at Qantas and BHP: “In the case of cabin crew Qantas uses four different companies providing four different rates of pay to meet seasonal peaks. Qantas general counsel Andrew Finch has cautioned that ‘same job, same pay’ regulation could increase costs for the company if it made labour hire untenable. … BHP also set up its own in-house labour hire firms to operate its coal mines in 2019.” Note, these aren’t even really outsourced workers — the companies are using tricky corporate structures to artificially split up their workforces to slash pay and conditions. Next, veteran mining industry troglodyte Steve Knott just throws around “Marx-inspired” and “ridiculous”. But then the big one: “An enterprise agreement could simplify some of these issues with standard rates and classifications but firms point out that most workplaces don’t have such agreements.” Well then they should sit down and negotiate such agreements! Problem solved.