Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 9 Hansard (1 September) . . Page.. 2680..
MR SMYTH (continuing):
Currently, workers in the cleaning industry are covered for long service leave entitlements by the Long Service Leave Act 1976, which is administered by WorkCover in my department. The view of the cleaning industry is that there is an issue here to be considered, but measures are already in place that will address this issue. For example, mediation was recently introduced as a mechanism under the Long Service Leave Act and in the last year four disputes over long service leave have been successfully mediated. Others have been mediated informally and the issues resolved.
The industry has deep concern that there has been insufficient consultation on this issue. This matter was raised last week and I am grateful, and I understand that the industry is grateful, that at least a week was given over to it. But the industry is concerned that, given the depth of these issues, a week still is not enough to consult on this issue. Why the haste? Is there a reason why there has been little consultation on this issue? I am pleased that at least we had that last week. But a letter yesterday from Australian Business on behalf of the industry indicates that the industry still believes that there is much more consultation to be had.
Mr Speaker, before we agree to the locking up of funds in a long service leave board, let us have a good look at the issues. Is the establishment of the board the best option? It could result in considerable administrative costs being borne by employers. Those costs must be weighed against what the alternative solutions might be and what effect those costs would have on employment in the ACT and, therefore, what effect they would have on employees.
There are other issues. What would happen should the fund be oversubscribed, as was the case with the construction industry's long service leave fund? There is a question as to whether workers are actually advantaged by tying funds into a scheme that many may never access. We need only look at what happened to the building and construction industry's long service leave fund to see that oversubscription is a real danger. The fund was originally set at 2 per cent, as in the Bill before us, but after some years the fund was so oversubscribed - - -
Mr Berry: It was 21/2 per cent.
MR SMYTH: It started at 21/2 per cent, did it? Thank you, Mr Berry. The assets so outweighed the liabilities that the level of contribution has been reduced to one per cent. Mr Speaker, there are things here that we need to discuss, rather than just steaming ahead, because quite clearly the issues here are not defined in the nature of employment inside this industry. It is not clear that 2 per cent will be the right level in the long term, given that the make-up of this industry is somewhat different from that of the building and construction industry. Even if 2 per cent was right for that industry, would it be right for this industry? I think you need to look at those questions quite seriously before you put an impost on employers that will affect employment in the ACT.
Given the transient nature of the cleaning industry, the advice I am given is that most workers would not remain in the industry long enough to gain the benefit; therefore, those workers who did would be subsidised by those who did not. Current estimates are that 65 per cent of the workers in this industry are working part time and 35 per cent are