Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 12 Hansard (19 November) . . Page.. 4291 ..
MS MacDONALD (continuing):
I also had the great privilege when I was working for the Australian Services Union of representing a number of employees at Auscript court reporting services. At that time the federal Liberal government decided to sell off Auscript, which of course I believe was a great shame, because the services provided by the Auscript employees were second to none in terms of court reporting. I am not sure whether they are involved with the Hansard transcription these days here, but their work was exemplary at the time.
As a result of the sale of Auscript, all of the people who had been working for Auscript who were permanents were entitled to redundancy payments. But the Liberal government at the time said that it did not apply to the court reporting officers-and the reason was that they were casual. These casual workers had to guarantee to their employer that they would set aside three days per week in which they would be employed. They also had to inform their casual employer, Auscript, if they were going to take up another job. When they signed a contract with Auscript, Auscript would say to them, "If you are going to work for us, we have the right of refusal for you to take up another job. We can cut back the amount of shifts that you get doing the transcription work, doing the typing, doing the recording in the courts; but you can't necessarily take up another job unless we say you can."(Extension of time granted.)
I had a delegate there who had actually worked for Auscript for 30 years, and she was still classified as a casual. Auscript said to her, "Never mind, Liz. Never mind about the fact that you've worked for this organisation for 30 years. Never mind about the fact that you've put your blood, sweat and tears into this organisation and typed your hands off day in, day out, that we have asked you to. We're not going to give you a redundancy payment."Well, it was my great privilege to be involved in the fight to make sure that changes happened, through the Industrial Relations Commission at that time.
So the law was changed to recognise that there was a difference between those people who were doing the odd hours in a place and did not have guarantee of employment on the next day, and those people who had continuous employment, who actually had a roster made up for them, which was the case for the Auscript employees.
I also would like to mention the temporary and casual agencies. I have to say that I saw some appalling conditions, in what is supposed to be a Western democracy, with people being basically treated like school children, and worse than school children. I remember that at one place I represented people were told that they had to take a disc and ask for permission to go to the toilet. And only one person-out of approximately 50 employees-was allowed to go to the toilet at any one time. But people could not complain about this. The reason they could not complain? It was because they had no guarantee that they would get a shift the next time around when there was a shift going. It did not matter that they had to put food on the table for their family and pay the rent or the mortgage.
Those things just go to show that the employees in a casual relationship are not treated on an equal basis; they are not on an equal footing with the employer in this case. They are the ones who are required to run and jump when they are told to. If they need the employment, there is no guarantee for them. Mention has been made of the fact that there is compensation for that casual basis. Well, I would put it to you, Mr Speaker, that the compensation in the form of a loading is in fact not much compensation at all.