Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2007 Week 13 Hansard (5 December) . . Page.. 3922..
MR BERRY (Ginninderra) (10.55): I move:
That this bill be agreed to in principle.
The bill I introduce today is the Long Service Leave (Private Sector) Bill 2007. The bill, if successful, will give private sector workers a portable and secure long service leave scheme. It will bring long overdue fair access to long service leave for private sector workers in the Australian Capital Territory at no cost to the territory budget.
Long service leave in Australia dates back to the Victorian and South Australian civil services in the 19th century, when officers were allowed to return "home"to England for up to six months on full pay or 12 months on half pay after 10 years service. It was extended to most public sector employees by the end of the 1920s, then to federal awards by the late 1940s. Long service leave was enacted in all states in the 1950s. It is a longstanding entitlement that has grown steadily as Australian living standards have improved but which is now being eroded by changing workplace conditions.
Entitlements for workers in the ACT private sector are calculated at the rate of 8.667 weeks long service leave at 10 years service. Public sector workers are entitled to 13 weeks after 10 years. The 1996 amendments to the building and construction industry scheme increased the entitlement in that industry from two months to three months after 10 years.
Increasingly, over the years of the Howard government, we have seen workers' entitlements and job security eroded. We have seen more workers on contracts rather than with tenure and we have seen at the same time workers left vulnerable through a lack of security for their entitlements and their jobs. In other words, the workplace has become less fair. Labor promised a private sector long service leave scheme in 2001, and in 2003 I introduced a bill which was referred to the Standing Committee on Legal Affairs. The committee recommended by a majority that the bill be agreed to in principle.
This Long Service Leave (Private Sector) Bill 2007 updates the bill introduced in 2003. It is modelled on the successful schemes in the building and construction and contract cleaning industries. The building and construction industry scheme has been in place since 1981. It is in place in each state and territory with reciprocal rights for workers all around the country. Because of its size and maturity it is a good example of how these schemes work. Its board has invested wisely and has significant assets, which has led to a fall in the levy rate of the fund to one per cent.
The contract cleaning industry fund is newer and smaller but already it has growing assets, and workers who were once vulnerable to losing their continuous employment status because of changes in contracts are now earning industry-portable long service leave credits. The contract cleaning industry has some of the lowest paid employees and most are women, so it is particularly pleasing that the fairer scheme this Assembly approved in 1999 is now delivering benefits to these workers. When we debated the bill there were cries from parts of the business community and the scheme was portrayed as radical, but the success of the ACT scheme has now seen a similar scheme introduced in Queensland.