Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 7 Hansard (30 June) . . Page.. 1888..
MR BERRY (continuing):
In introducing this Bill today, I would like to set out why I am doing so. This Bill, if passed, will provide for workers in the cleaning, building and property services industry to accrue long service leave benefits. At first glance that might seem unremarkable, and it should be unremarkable. Long service leave, as you would appreciate, has been a fact of life for most workers in this country for many years. In July 1951 the New South Wales Industrial Arbitration Act was amended to provide for paid sick leave and long service leave. It became a standard benefit in Federal awards by the mid-1960s. However, for some workers it remained a dream. Many have never had long service leave, in spite of spending many years in the same industry doing the same job.
The fact is that some workers, while remaining in a single industry, find that their workplace changes or that their employer changes and they have to start all over again with their long service leave. The cleaning, building and property service industry is one such industry. It is an industry whose workers are often invisible. They work what is known as unsociable hours. They are not on high incomes and their work is not glamorous. They are the quiet achievers. But that should not mean that they are denied benefits which many other workers enjoy.
Another industry where this situation once occurred was the building and construction industry. In 1981 a similar situation to the one I propose was put in place for the building industry. The Bill I am introducing today mirrors the Long Service Leave (Building and Construction Industry) Act 1981 insofar as it affects the cleaning industry in the ACT. That legislation has served the building and construction industry well. It is accepted by employers in that industry and is welcomed by the workers who now have access to long service leave, whereas in many cases prior to the legislation long service leave was not available to them. I hope that the success of that legislation will encourage all in the Assembly to support this legislation.
As part of the development of this legislation, I have consulted with the union which represents cleaners as well as the employers during the drafting stage. The principal concern of the unions was, of course, the lack of access to these conditions for all their members. The employers on the other hand expressed concern that there ought to be a level playing field for all ACT employers, which this legislation achieves.
This Bill provides for long service leave payments by employers to be made into a central fund. It provides for registration of employers and employees, annual statements and, once the required benefits have accrued, payment to be made. The benefit is set at the rate generally applying in the private sector - two months after 10 years of service. The fund is to be controlled by a board which is appointed by the Minister and has an employer and an employee representative. There are also safeguards and appeals processes to protect the interests of both employers and employees. This Bill will ensure basic long service leave benefits for a group of workers who are not high-flyers in our work force. Many people will, for the first time, enjoy benefits which for nearly 50 years have been considered routine by other workers.
In conclusion, Mr Speaker, I would like to say that I am proud and honoured to present this Bill today and would like to say thank you to the many people who helped in its preparation. These include workers in the industry, the union and its officials, the employers and also Parliamentary Counsel for their care and attention and helpful advice in the preparation of this Bill.