Five AA Mornings with Leon Byner

Transcript
  • Minister for Jobs and Industrial Relations
  • Minister for Women

E&OE

SUBJECTS: Agricultural jobs; jobactive; casual employees

LEON BYNER:   

We often talk about employment and where we can we try and find people work and we’ve been able with the help of people like Gary Collis, industrial advocate, and Chris Hamilton and Darryl Cross and others, we’ve been able to find work for some people. I wish we could do a lot more. But there’s been an issue recently where the Federal Government are having a look at the business of agricultural work where farmers and people on the land can’t find reliable labour and so one of the remedies that’s been suggested is that they be able to bring in people from overseas. Now we do it already of course, we have a lot of backpackers who come here and they go on what’s called the harvest trail. I’m sure you know this. So where are we going with all this? Let’s talk to the Jobs and Industrial Relations Minister, Kelly O’Dwyer. Minister, thank you for coming on today.

KELLY O’DWYER:         

Great to be with you Leon.

LEON BYNER:    

What's the latest on this?

KELLY O’DWYER:             

The core focus for us as a Government is to get our citizens who want to work into work. The best form of welfare for people is a job and the best way to build your financial security is to have a job. And we certainly know that there are lots and lots of jobs available in our agricultural sector where there is a lot of seasonal work where fruit needs to be picked, the work needs to be done and employers are crying out for that assistance. And what we're doing as a Government is we are saying there are a lot of young people, a lot of people here who currently don't have a job who should use that opportunity to be able to get their foot on the employment ladder and matching the two of them up together.

Now where we can't do that through the National Harvest Labour Information Service – which is both a website and also a telephone line where people can register their interest for a job or if they’re an employer to say that they've got a job going – where we can't actually match people up and where there is an excess need, as you’ve quite rightly pointed out Leon, we have seasonal worker programs which have been very, very successful. We have workers coming in from Pacific nations who come in year after year helping our farmers to be able to pick their fruit and to get their harvest to market.

LEON BYNER:    

Do you want local people, unemployed to do those jobs?

KELLY O’DWYER:             

Absolutely we do, absolutely, and we have seen a terrific increase in the number of people who are employed particularly younger people who are employed. In fact in South Australia the youth unemployment rate has actually fallen over the last 12 months from around 16 per cent down to around about 13 per cent. Now it's still far too high which says to us that more needs to be done. But we're very focused on how we can get those young people into work. And we have jobactive providers who can help provide them with that support and assistance.

LEON BYNER:    

I want to get onto this business of the jobs network because we do a lot of work on this program with people who interact with the job networks and I have to tell you that much of the feedback we get is less than satisfactory. I'll tell you a typical scenario. They will tend to put the resources into people who have been unemployed much longer – and I understand that – but if you ask somebody who has recently been made redundant or you've only been unemployed for a short time, the best you'll get from a job network provider is a finger – there's a computer over there go and have a look. Now that's all fine but then that person through their own contacts finds work and then they find that the job network want to know who it is that's employed them because they want to get a commission. Now surely they're not entitled to that.

KELLY O’DWYER:             

Well, Leon, I think you raise a very good point which is you sometimes have some better providers than others and that is precisely the reason why the Government is going through a process right now to review jobactive providers and to make sure that we have got the best system in place to be able to…

LEON BYNER:

Are they entitled to a commission for a situation I just told you about?

KELLY O’DWYER:             

Potentially yes, and I’ll explain why. We stream the people who are actually looking for work in terms of whether they have been long-term unemployed where they would be in Stream C – haven’t had a job for a very long period of time and might have some barriers to employment – right through to Stream A, where you’ve got people who might have been out of work for a short period of time but who are basically job ready and looking for a job.

LEON BYNER:

But if a job network had little to do with their getting the job, why would they be entitled to a fee for it?

KELLY O’DWYER:             

If they have, for instance, provided them with additional support – and in some cases that can mean interview…

LEON BYNER:

What does that mean?

KELLY O’DWYER:             

…skills training, so they might explain to people how they can best present in an interview; they might give them…

LEON BYNER:

Minister, can I let you in to a secret? Can I let you in to a secret?

KELLY O’DWYER:             

Please.

LEON BYNER:

Most of the people that come to us and tell us this have had no such support. No such support – and further, the employers tell us that they send people totally inappropriate for the job description, right?

KELLY O’DWYER:             

Well, can I say to you Leon I am very interested in those examples as the Minister who now has responsibility for this area, and I would welcome any case studies that you have on this so that I can personally have a look at them.

LEON BYNER:

We went through this years ago, about getting commissions for things for which the job network had little to do with. And if you, let’s say through somebody that is somewhat industrious – and many people are – who go and find themselves a position, and then they’re told we need to know who it is, because the person who went and did it, they don’t perceive that the job network had any role as such, they’re asking for a commission for something they didn’t do.

KELLY O’DWYER:             

If you have people out there who have been dissatisfied with the service they have received from their provider, if they haven’t provided them with the service that they need in order to help assist them get into a job, there is actually a complaints line. And I’d like to give it to you, Leon so that people can in fact contact them. The national customer service line is 1800 805 260. But people do, if they’re in Stream A, have a requirement – particularly if they’re being given Government support – and let’s not forget there are people who are being given Government support and that’s why they’re connected up to a jobactive provider. They do have an obligation themselves to actively, proactively seek employment. We believe in mutual obligation.

LEON BYNER:

Yes, but, and that’s all fine, yeah, okay but that’s a side issue to what we’re talking about. I’m talking about a situation where an industrious person gets a job through their own efforts, somebody comes in on top of them and says oh we’ll take a commission for that, thank you very much.

KELLY O’DWYER:             

The jobactive providers get given people in Stream A, Stream B, and Stream C. So they get hard cases, they get paid a lot more money for people who have a lot more barriers to employment. For people who have little barriers to employment, for whom they might provide additional support, they get a lesser payment for that. But I’m interested in the examples that you’ve talked about, and Leon I can give you my assurance as the new Minister in this space I’d be personally very happy to investigate it.  

LEON BYNER:

All right. I’ll talk to Chris Hamilton and a few others who, Chris is a well-known psychologist. He does a lot of work in that space, and he’s got some prime examples. Now, before I let you go there’s a big industrial relations case going on now where the unions are saying they want workers to be treated fairly who are casual. Where is all this going?

KELLY O’DWYER:             

Well we think everyone should be treated fairly and that workers should be paid the entitlements that they are due. There has been a recent case in the Federal Court that’s been decided, where a worker who was according to the employer, employed as a casual did not exhibit all the characteristics of a casual employee and he made claims for additional entitlements to do with holiday pay and other pay that goes with being a permanent employee. Now, the question that was left open was a question of whether if you have already been paid a casual loading in lieu of other entitlements – so you’ve been given 25 per cent above what you would otherwise be paid – then the employer would ordinarily in those circumstances be able to offset the payment that had already been made to that employee. Now, what we’ve said is that it’s absolutely right that you should be paid what you are owed, but in circumstances where you’ve already been paid an entitlement you get paid once not twice for that entitlement. So the Government has intervened in a test case to clarify the common law which is that if you have already been paid for your entitlement you get paid once for your entitlement, which is an issue that many small businesses are very, very concerned about right now. There are around about 3.3 million small businesses that employ around 7 million Australians. They employ a number of those people as casuals and they give them a 25 per cent loading in lieu of other entitlements.

LEON BYNER:

So you would argue if they’re getting that loading they’re not entitled to sick leave and all the other things that come with a more permanent position?

KELLY O’DWYER:             

Well, that has been the established position for a very, very long period of time. Now, if they’re not given a 25 per cent loading, if they’re not given payment in lieu of their other entitlements, then clearly they should be paid their full entitlement. So we want to give certainty to small businesses, to the people that employ the workers out there, those workers who work for small businesses particularly. We want to give them certainty so that there can be compliance with the law.

LEON BYNER:

All right Kelly, thank you for coming on today. That’s the Jobs and Industrial Relations Minister, Kelly O’Dwyer. I’m just interested in knowing, I mean, you have to go to a job network. If you’re getting unemployment benefits, Newstart or whatever, you have no choice but to go to a job network. But many people that talk to us will tell us that they haven’t been offered a lot of these so-called supplementary services because, first of all, they don’t need them so therefore it’s a waste of time, and the best that they’ve told us is well we’re given some activity responsibilities, go over to that computer and have a look at this. But many people have found jobs, I’ve done stories on this for years, but I just have a feeling that any serious investigation into the job network, because remember we used to have once upon a time the Commonwealth Employment Service, that’s all gone now. But if you’ve had a great experience with a job network, hey, tell us, love to hear.

[ENDS]

 

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