Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 14 Hansard (11 December) . . Page.. 4228 ..
MR BERRY (continuing):
The problem in a lot of cases is that some unscrupulous employers manage their work force to ensure the benefit never falls to their workers. In turn, their workers have insecure jobs and those employers are in a better position to trade in the marketplace than are competitors who look after their employees. We need to rule out of the equation employers who reduce their costs by manipulating their workers out of long service leave. If you are paying into a scheme at 2 per cent, reducing over time, there is no incentive to exploit your work force.
At first there was agreement by employers to the contract cleaning industry scheme. That support then evaporated a little. Then there was concern about it. But now it is in place there is general acceptance across the board. The cleaning industry nationwide is very interested in it. There are discussions now about having a national scheme for cleaning workers. Employers can see the benefits of keeping their employees by providing them with decent, humane wages and working conditions and giving them security. We have to rule out of the equation the incentive for exploitation and to make sure that employers are all working from a level playing field. The thing we hear most from advocates of the free market is that everybody should be on a level playing field. This is a way to get one for workers' benefits, and an honourable one at that.
Women are the most disadvantaged because they are least likely to have continuous employment, particularly in the private sector. If they want to start a family, it is even more difficult for them. The benefits of a scheme for portable long service leave right across the board will fall mostly to women.
This is an issue of importance to this Assembly, because it goes to the provision of a fairer workplace for the constituents we represent. Members will have received from me copies of a proposal for a long service leave scheme which essentially mirrors the cleaning industry scheme. It also has attached to it a model for a parental leave scheme based on the same sort of arrangement. It did not take Einstein to work it out. There are schemes in place that are working pretty well, so you would not want to reinvent the wheel. I am happy to talk to anybody about my proposed scheme over the ensuing months, with a view one day to improving conditions in accordance with the promise we made before the last election.
There is no reason to oppose this motion. I cannot see why the Liberals or anyone else would do it. It makes sense. It will ensure the development of a proposal for workers in the ACT. I am happy to support it. I look forward to legislation which provides a scheme of portable and protected long service leave for all ACT workers in the near future.
MS DUNDAS (12.14): Employment benefits enjoyed by employees in the ACT exist because members of a union struggled to win those benefits. Employers have almost never given anything away free. The main goal of most employers is to run a business that is as competitive as possible and that returns the largest possible profit. These goals are sometimes difficult to reconcile with the granting of benefits over and above the legal minimum for workers.
Our industrial relations system, like industrial relations systems across Australia, has been developed piecemeal as a result of uneven influence of union activism in different industries and different workplaces. These inconsistencies, though fully explainable, serve to confuse both employees and employers about their legal entitlements.