Media Release

February 08, 2016

Employees on insecure contracts have no confidence for the future


Ed Byrne


Ed Byrne

Hundreds of thousands of Victorians are living in insecurity, as businesses and employers increasingly casualise and outsource their workforce.


Speaking at the opening of Victoria’s first Inquiry into Labour Hire and Insecure Work, Victorian union leaders warn that ordinary working Victorians are facing serious financial stress and being excluded from minimum working conditions by employers’ misuse of labour hire, casual contracts, and other forms of insecure employment contracts.

A Victorian Trades Hall Council analysis of 618 public submissions from ordinary working people with experience of insecure work revealed:


  •  86% of workers in insecure work reported that they did not feel confident about the future of their job or income.
  • 55% of workers reported they could not speak up at work about their pay and conditions without risking their jobs, contravening general protections under the Fair Work Act.
  • Half of workers reported that they did not have a predictable roster to plan their life around and that they could not take leave without fear of losing their job.
  • 43% of workers reported they were not told about WorkCover or what to do if they were injured.
  • 25% of workers reported that they could not always pay their rent or mortgage each week.
  • 18% of workers reported that they could not always pay their bills or buy food each week.


Victorian Unions’ online submission portal also uncovered chilling examples of exploitation and abuse, impacting workers mental and physical health.



Quotes attributable: Secretary of Victorian Trades Hall Council, Luke Hilakari

“Casualisation and labour hire are ripping apart people’s lives. Victorians expect jobs they can count on, but our laws allow employers to casualise people, shifting all the risks on to employees.”


“Victoria has an opportunity to get this right. This inquiry must implement some strong laws that will improve security for thousands of Victorians”.


“Workers have told us that job security isn’t just about your job and your pay cheque. It’s about being able to plan your life, special occasions with your loved ones, keep your family together, keep in good mental health. Legislating for secure jobs will have a significant positive impact on thousands of lives”.


Quotes attributable: Craig Kelly, AMWU Assistant State Secretary

“Insecure work from labour hire and other casual employment holds out the illusion of convenience and flexibility, but the uncertainty puts enormous stress on working people trying to give their families stability, enjoy their lives and plan their futures.”


 “We know that hard-won union gains in labour hire can be entrenched through better laws protecting workers.”


“The AMWU calls on the Inquiry and State Government to use this opportunity to take a real step forward for thousands of working people who suffer from constant uncertainty, and give them some security through the portability of certain leave entitlements and severance pay, and providing a common wages standard.”


Quotes attributable: Carolyn Dunbar, Victorian Regional Director, Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance


“Work in the media, entertainment and creative industries is increasingly characterised by insecure and unlawful employment arrangements including sham contracting, casualisation, low paid and no paid work. Consequently, workers in the entertainment industry have reported increased rates of depression, anxiety and sleep disorders and difficulty maintaining family relationships, their social lives and ability to plan for the future.


We urge the Victorian government to show leadership in turning the tide of insecure work by adopting procurement practices that require publicly-owned arts, sports and entertainment venues to employ workers directly under a collective agreement, rather than contract out their employment.


“We also call on the government to introduce tighter regulation of performer agents to prevent financial exploitation of actors and extras.”



Quotes attributable: Karen Batt Victorian Secretary Community and Public Sector Union State Government Division


“Nothing is more destabilising for workers and their families than not knowing whether there will be a regular pay cheque arriving.  It’s the single most talked about topic around the kitchen table, amongst close friends and between couples. 


There’s often much public criticism directed at Governments for poor decision making and wrong outcomes, in fact the papers would have nothing to print if it wasn’t the case, but a Government reliant on a workforce predominantly engaged on short term insecure contracts, leads to inadequate advice and a lot of public money being wasted, and this affects all Victorians.

Victorian workers have not been subjected to such organised attacks by business lobbies and the Federal Government on the their job security and employment since the 90’s and must have a champion in their corner


This Government has indicated it intends to build its internal capability and end the wasteful and questionable employment practises that were the hallmark of the previous Baillieu / Napthine administration but it must also enact strong laws to secure the future for all Victorian workers.”



Quotes attributable: Lisa Fitzpatrick, Victorian Secretary, Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation


“Labour hire and agency nurses wrote to the ANMF (Vic Branch) to express their concerns about a lack of basic working rights. These disadvantages included a lack of notice for the rostering or cancellation of shifts, employers not complying with industry standards, inability to secure a mortgage, difficulty in organising childcare and a lack of reliable income.


Casual or insecure work also brings unique challenges in the field of health care. A lack of orientation, workplace induction or understanding of the operating responsibilities of each healthcare team within each new workplace can be precarious for our agency and labour hire nurses. In addition, insecure work arrangements leave Victorian nurses and midwives short-changed when it comes to financing and organising necessary continuing education responsibilities.


Given the extent of the problems within nursing and midwifery labour hire or agency work, these work arrangements should be treated as a measure of last resort. Permanent employment should be a priority. If these work arrangements must continue, problems within health care agency work and labour hire could be targeted and addressed by a proper labour hire regulatory scheme.”


Quotes attributable: Gary Maas Victorian Secretary, National Union of Workers


"The NUW has been fighting for secure jobs for five years now.  Our members tell us that insecure work is bad for them, bad for their families and bad for their communities."

"The NUW supports the State Government inquiry. Regulating labour-hire will assist in alleviating the stress that our members experience each day of their lives."

"Insecure work creates anxiety.  It  does not create productive workplaces.  The NUW will continue organising for decent jobs, safe workplaces and strong communities."


Quotes attributable: John Setka, Secretary of CFMEU Construction Division

“Casualisation and labour hire force vulnerable workers into dodgy jobs and expose them to unscrupulous employers. Yet the Liberals want to legislate a building code that will see these practices flourish and re-establish the ABCC to act as a police force to ensure that they do.”


Quotes attributable: Jess Walsh, Victorian Secretary of United Voice


"In our submission workers across many industries told of being stuck in an endless cycle of low paid, insecure jobs. Often they’re underpaid by hundreds of dollars a week, like we saw with Myer cleaners. Their hours can be cut without notice. Their lives are in constant turmoil. And standing up for even basic rights is too risky."


"Workers told of watching nervously as workmates leave but aren't replaced, while new people are brought in to do same job for less pay and with no job security."


"This crisis of insecure work is bigger than just one level of government. We need a comprehensive plan to rebuild good secure jobs, so families can plan their lives and give their kids a better future."


"Unions have an important role to play in helping people end this chronic insecurity and exploitation. Workers must be supported to join unions so they can stand up for their rights."


Quotes attributable: Ben Davis, Victorian Secretary of AWU

“Insecure work has cut away pay and conditions systematically across industries. Workers suffer and so do their families.”


“In the case of labour hire, there is ample evidence of exploitation of local and foreign workers. A licence system for labour hire providers is an essential and urgently needed step.”


Media Event: Wobble on “Insecurity Slackline”

9:30am Monday 8 February, on the steps of State Parliament

Workers with experience of insecure work joined by Brendan O’Connor, Shadow Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations


Victorians with experience of the damaging impact of insecure work arrangements will walk the “insecurity slackline” at Parliament.


Insecure workers from tertiary education, construction, health and nursing, manufacturing, media, and farm work are highlighting the impact of labour hire, casual, sham contract and short-term forms of employment on working people and their families.


Media Enquiries: Contact Edwina Byrne,

Lead Media Organiser, Victorian Trades Hall Council

0409 017 140 | [email protected]


We Volunteers

We Are Union. We are a movement of people standing together for a just and equitable Victoria where:

  • all people are respected and valued, 
  • all working people are organised, safe, and winning at work

We organise our communities to build support for union, industrial, and social campaigns, and we're excited to have you on board.