As the ABCC’s investigation into sham contracting in the building and construction industry continues, the Australian Institute for Employment Rights (AIER) calls again for recognition of the foundation principle that workers performing the same or equivalent work as employees should be entitled to the same protections.
Research has consistently identified negative outcomes associated with sham/dependent contracting practices. These include:
• Absence of minimum employment entitlements designed to protect workers’ economic, social and
health wellbeing, including a satisfactory work/life balance;
• Excessive working hours without commensurate remuneration;
• Higher risk of occupational injury to contractors;
• Higher risk of occupational injury to those working alongside contractors;
• Shifting the cost of injuries away from workers’ compensation systems onto injured workers
and their families, and onto the general health system; and
• Absence of investment in skills and training.
In its previous submission to the Inquiry into the provisions of the Independent Contractors Bill 2006 and Workplace Relations Legislation Amendment (Independent Contractors) Bill 2006, AIER called for the problematic definitions surrounding dependent and independent contracting to be abolished and for the protections afforded by workplace legislation to be extended to those workers in dependent relationships.. It was noted at this time that this solution was consistent with international shifts to ensure necessary protection is not lost through disguised employment.
The matters outlined in the AIER’s 2006 submission are still valid for consideration today as federal legislation has not yet adequately addressed these problems.
The AIER also commends the submission to the ABCC Inquiry from Deakin University academic Elsa Underhill and that from John Howe and Tess Hardy from Melbourne University Centre for Employment and Labour Relations Law.