Health and Community Services Union (Victoria) (HACSU) Submission to Portable Long Service Leave Inquiry



Insecure work in the Health and Community Services Sector………...3

Labour Hire in the Health and Community Services Sector…………....8

National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS)……………………………….10

Insecure Workers: Low Paid, unskilled or semi-skilled jobs………….12

Exploitation of Women, and other vulnerable classes of workers...13



The Health and Community Services Union (Victoria)’s submissions into the:

Victorian Inquiry into the Labour Hire Industry and Insecure Work Inquiry.


The Health and Community Services Union (“HACSU”) welcome the Victorian Government’s inquiry into the Labour Hire Industry and Insecure Work.

HACSU, which was first registered in 1911, is the Victorian Number 2 Branch of the Health Services Union Australia and represents the professional and industrial interests of Victoria’s Disability workforces and Nurses, Allied Health Professionals and support staff working in Mental Health services and Alcohol and Other Drug services.

All views articulated in this submission are those of the Branch and do not represent the views of the broader Health Services Union beyond the Victorian Number 2 Branch.

Our members are employed across all areas of health and community services in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors. HACSU’s main aim is to improve member’s working lives by negotiating improvements in wages and conditions and protecting workers rights.

HACSU will always campaign tirelessly for the rights, entitlements and protections of workers engaged in the health and community services sector in Victoria, no matter their employment status, employer, workplace or birthright.

HACSU exists in order to give our members a voice, and as such this submission contains many personal stories from our membership who have experienced first-hand the detrimental impact of insecure work and labour hire.

This submission will primarily be focusing on insecure work in the Health and Community sector, specifically for those employees engaged in the disability and mental health sectors, and the impact that insecure work has on those people both socially and financially.

This submission makes the case for better protections for working people trapped in insecure work and labour hire. Although this submission will focus on insecure work, labour hire is becoming increasing prevalent in the sector, and will also be addressed in these submissions.

Insecure work in the Health and Community Services Sector

Insecure work is defined as that which provides workers with little social and economic security and little control over their working lives. Indicators of insecure work are:

o  Unpredictable, fluctuating pay;

o  Inferior rights and entitlements, including limited or no access to paid leave;

o  Irregular and unpredictable working hours, or working hours that, although regular, are too long or too few and/or non-social or fragmented;

o  Lack of security and/or uncertainty over the length of the job; and

o  Lack of voice at work on wages, conditions and work organisation.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics define casual employment as all employees that do not enjoy access to paid holiday or sick leave. Casual workers tend to be part-time and dominated by female workers. The jobs tend to be low skilled and low paid.

Insecure work is a lived reality for our members in both the mental health and disability sector. The number of people affected by insecure work has been steadily rising since the 1970’s. It is therefore imperative that the recommendations made by HACSU in this submission are considered, as they are necessary and vital in order to ensure that people are engaged in secure employment.

Case Study: A Members Story

I was directly employed casual in my current job. Casuals are always in fear of losing hours as the company employs too many new people at one time and consequently there are not enough hours for you to cover your day to day living. It never feels secure and rosters only come out two days before you are due to start, so you cannot plan your life, or even try and earn more money by getting a second job, as you do not know what days you will be available.

I love my job, but have no respect for the managers and the company and I am in fear of saying anything as I will be victimised. I have seen this happen.

We need to ensure that there are minimum hours for casual workers in this industry. I do not understand why we do all the training and not get any work. It is a waste of everyone’s time and money.

Jane – HACSU member

In mental health, insecure work manifests mainly as a result of workers being employed casually through a staff bank, or via an agency, or more rarely, through a limited term contract. The use of casual workers can be dependent on a person’s profession within the mental health sector, and to a certain extent geography. Broadly speaking there is a shortage of trained mental health nurses across the state and this is felt most acutely in rural and regional Victoria presently. Generally, casuals are engaged in mental health services to cover emergency leave situations.

However, this is not the case in the disability sector. The disability sector relies more heavily on casuals and the increased casualisation of the workforce has been occurring for a number of years. Insecure work in the disability sector is becoming a feature of government funded services as well as in the Community Service Organisation [CSO] and private sectors. The casual staff are engaged either via an employment agency, such as On-Call, or are employed directly by the service provider on a casual basis.

HACSU submit that the Victorian Government has a responsibility to ensure that its own directly employed workforce at the Department of Health and Human Services, are employed in secure work. HACSU submit that this responsibility extends to ensuring that those community services who receive Government funding ensure that their workers are engaged in secure employment.

Case Study: A Members Story

“I am employed in the Disability Sector by a NGO. I was employed as a casual. After some time of being casual and having regular shifts, my union asked my employer to classify me as permanent part-time. My employer agreed. However, my employer then refused to give me guaranteed minimum hours and refused to give me a contract. I spoke to HR but nothing happened, so I asked my union to be involved. My employer would call me up and say I had to be at work in two hours! I never knew when I was going to work, or how much I would earn from week to week. They were treating me like I was a casual, and they did not have to pay me any casual loading!

I found out I was pregnant, and I needed security in my employment. My union took the matter went to the Fair Work Commission. My employer said that they did not have to give me any minimum hours as a part timer, because it was not clearly outlined in the EBA. The Commission said that as a permanent part-time employee I should not be treated like a casual.

When I get back to work from maternity leave I am hoping that my employer will honour what was agreed and give me minimum hours.

I am a permanent part-time employee and deserve to know how much money I will have as a minimum each week. I now have a new baby and a husband on minimum wage. We are barely getting by as it is.”

Rossina, HACSU member

Case Study: A Member’s Story

I am a directly employed casual in my current job. As a casual you usually start with an intake process. With my intake process 9 of us went through the induction process. It was like, "meet your competition". We all knew that the 9 of us entering the services all together would mean we would have to please the "house" to get the job. Do not point out issues, just do what you are told, or else you would not work. We all knew that if you couldn't do the shift offered the person next to you would get the call. Do this more than once and you slide down the list until there were no calls. The people left on the list might not necessarily be the best workers but they probably were the workers with the least commitments in their personal lives, meaning family people knew they had to put the job first. I missed my daughter’s debutante ball because I knew if I said no thank you, they might not ring me up first next time. I missed many of my 4 children's special occasions because of this and because shifts could be anywhere over the 24 hr clock, without notice. We just never knew when work would be offered. I was always afraid to commit to my children because as so often happened, I would make plans, then get a phone call, "can do an active night at **street?" My children got used to this. It did effect our relationship, but I had a mortgage to pay. I knew I had at least 8 other casuals keen to jump into my shift. My employer had no conscience in reminding me this, making sure I felt insecure enough to always be available.

After 2 years of this I was "lucky" enough to go on a 3 month contract, every 3 months my supervisor let the contract lapse for a day or two thus putting me through the process of going from casual to contract and vice versa at the payroll office meaning if I didn't plan carefully and keep funds aside for the light fortnight when I would get very little pay we would go backwards financially. This went on for another 4 years so we got used to the process. Out of that 4 years, only 3 times my contract didn't lapse. This was when we had an acting supervisor who had come up the ranks from casual and had empathy for my position. I worked in a "behavior house" where copping a smack or two was part of the job. The risk was just part of the landscape.

My marriage failed and I was distanced from my children. I had to make a conscious decision to provide financially for my family and sacrifice relationships with my family. In the end I was providing for my family via the child support system whilst my wife and children lived their lives without me.

Casual staff are a real necessity in our economy to fill any voids left when permanent staff can't fill the bill. However casuals can be remunerated in a fashion that might compensate for the obvious sacrifices they make to their private lives. Casuals should be made feel valued by the system that employs them. Certain rules enshrining their rights to work should be formulated in a manner that properly respects their input in the system just as much as a casuals right not to work (family commitments, mental health breaks, time off sick and recreation breaks) has to be enshrined so as to protect the casual from fear of reprisal allowing the casual to feel valued enough to know their job (the hours they regularly perform) will still be there on return from above mentioned breaks.

Anonymous, HACSU Member

HACSU also has deep concerns that the National Disability Insurance Scheme will result in an exacerbation of the current over-use of casual employment, and use of Labour Hire.

Labour Hire in the Health and Community Services Sector

The proportion of Australian employees engaged in casual work has grown significantly over the past decade. At present the casualisation rate has been steady, but this may be due to the fact that the use of labour hire and other forms of independent contracting are on the rise.

Whilst casualisation of the workforce is a problem that has been long felt in the Health and Community Services Sector, labour hire is become a prominent issue.

It seems that many organisations within the Health and Community services sector use labour hire arrangements to minimise their tax obligations or their responsibility to protect workers from injury.

Labour hire also allows a business or corporation not to pay wages in accordance with the relevant enterprise agreement. One issue that unions often face is that labour hire workers at a particular location may be paid at the award rate, while their directly employed colleagues at the same location may be paid at a higher enterprise bargaining rate. Many labour hire companies pay their workers minimum rate, offer no benefits and no job security.

Labour Hire employees are also offered far less protection, for example, only employees can commence legal actions against an unfair dismissal.

The growth of unstable, non-regular work routines has implications for the living standards of labour hire workers.

Case Study: A Member’s Story

“I was employed through a labour hire agency in my current job. Working for an agency has left me with less available work. I have trouble paying rent on time, fortunately my landlord was understanding and supportive. I would love to be able to book shifts into the future to ensure my ability to pay my bills. I understand that the nature of agency work would not allow for this.