Workers stripped of sick pay, super, leave in ‘sham’ contracts - 9 News

Hundreds of thousands of workers are being forced to work under conditions that strip them of everything from sick pay to super – but now, they’re fighting back.

Liam Kelly, who has worked in the construction industry for more than 30 years, told A Current Affair things had gone downhill a few years ago when he was forced to work under an ABN.

“You don’t have much choice if there’s no other work around, you’ve got to accept that,” he aid.

He was paid as an independent contractor, and had to take care of all of his own entitlements.

“It’s cost me tens of thousands of dollars over a number of years,” he said.

The practice is known as “sham contracting”, where bosses use a loophole in employment law to get out of paying workers a salary, and basic rights such as sick leave and superannuation.

Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Sally McManus said there had been a “huge increase” in sham contracting recently, but that it was just one of the ways employers were taking advantage of workers.

Today, about 40 percent of the workforce is employed insecurely.

“We’ve got one of the highest rates of insecure work in the developed world,” Ms McManus said.

“Part of that is ABNs, part of that is casual work, part of that is labor hire, there’s all these different ways that employers have been able to make jobs insecure.”

But a number of Australian workers have seemingly had enough, with protesters taking to the street around the country in a show of force.

Protestors are calling on the Federal Government to do more to protect workers’ rights.

“We’ve got to make sure it’s easier for people to get their rights back or their money back if they’ve been taken off them,” Ms McManus said.

“That should be the first priority, and then secondly, as a deterrent, there should be stronger penalties stopping employers or punishing them for deliberately flouting our laws.”

Mother of three Nicole Serafin an ambassador for Hairstylists Australia, said she was forced to work as an independent contractor in 2015.

“We’ve got to make sure it’s easier for people to get their rights back or their money back if they’ve been taken off them,” Ms McManus said.

“That should be the first priority, and then secondly, as a deterrent, there should be stronger penalties stopping employers or punishing them for deliberately flouting our laws.”

Mother of three Nicole Serafin an ambassador for Hairstylists Australia, said she was forced to work as an independent contractor in 2015.

She said most salons she approached did not want to deal with “the overheads of super, workers compensation, holiday pay, sick may, insurances”.

She said she struggled to make ends meet.

“At some points I was only earning up to $50 a day because the salon was so quiet, and yet my childcare costs were already $100 a day, so I was already behind the eight ball before I even walked through the door to start the day,” she said.

Andrew Jewell, principal lawyer with McDonald Murholme said a lack of regulation meant that unless an individual employee took action, the employer could “basically get away with it”.

He advised anybody who believed they might be in a sham arrangement to seek legal advice and file an application with the tax office regarding their super.

Reference: ‘Workers stripped of sick pay, super, leave in ‘sham’ contracts ‘, 9 News, Tuesday 13th November 2018.