Survey shows casual exploitation

Issue 

BY BRONWEN BEECHEY

ADELAIDE — A survey of 350 young casual workers here has revealed that many are being underpaid, do not know their rights and find that work is adversely affecting their studies and social life.

With 27% of the workforce now employed casually and the majority of new jobs being part-time, the report's authors say that young people are becoming trapped in a cycle of intermittent casual work and periods of unemployment. Twenty-six percent of respondents said they would prefer permanent work.

The survey and accompanying report, Not A Casual Affair, are the result of a joint project between the Young Christian Workers and the United Trades and Labor Council and concludes that the labour movement needs to pay more attention to casual workers.

Many casual jobs should actually be classified as permanent, the report argues, as most are regularly rostered or are expected to be available for work at any time.

Twelve percent said that they were "punished" for refusing hours by not being offered shifts, and 42% said that being on call made it difficult for them to plan other events in their day.

A large proportion of those surveyed did not know their rights or entitlements. Fifty percent did not know the legal minimum number of hours they should be paid for a shift, 44% did not know the correct rate of pay for their job or award, and one in four said they were not being paid the correct rate.

Twenty-three percent said they were working for "cash in hand" and 27% that they were not covered by workers compensation.

More than one in four were not aware of occupational health and safety regulations — even though a high proportion, 35%, had been injured at work. Of this number, only 60% reported their injury to their employer and, of those, 35% said that no action was taken.

The report highlighted two examples of union action. In one case, the Australian Services Union has ensured that casuals employed under the South Australian clerks award become permanent when they are working regularly, while in another the Queensland Council of Unions and the Australian Workers Union are attempting to gain an increase in the casual loading.