Permanents seeking casual jobs for higher pay say labour hire firms

However, managing director Ben Lewis told the hearing that conversions were “one or two or three” a year and “represent less than 1 per cent of our total workforce”.

“Interestingly… we actually have approximately the same number of requests to convert the other way – where people who are fixed-term or permanent have requested to engage casually,” he said.

He said his workforce, including 10 per cent permanent and 37 per cent fixed-term, was earning an average $120,000 a year and the majority’s preference to stay casual was driven by the extra loading and the industry’s huge demand for skilled employees.

“They tend to bank on their ability to keep a job and stay in ongoing employment and collect those higher rates of pay when the market is in the position where it’s in.”

Chandler Macleod said its analysis of its more than 10,000 employees in both 2018 and 2019 found less than 1 per cent took up a permanent role and some actually opted against doing so.

“Even after the employer has made that offer, a number of employees being offered that role have then declined it,” chief people officer Mark Graham said.

Hays managing director Nick Deligiannis said “the vast majority of our temporary workers opt for the casual arrangement” over a maximum-term contract as few casuals wanted to forego their 25 per cent loading and greater flexibility.

But CFMEU Queensland mining president Stephen Smyth said labour hire casuals were paid 10 to 30 per cent less than employees directly engaged by mine operators and as a result many “rely on the casual loading to get them closer to a decent mining wage”.

“Labour hire workers shouldn’t have to trade off their entitlements in order to get a wage closer to, but still well below, the permanent employees they work beside.”

Further, he said labour hire firms were not offering workers “genuine permanent jobs” as they were usually fixed or maximum-term contracts.

“Workers know they can be ‘let go’ at any moment if conditions change or the mine operator switches contractors.”

Despite acknowledging pay as a factor in contract bidding, all the labour hire CEOs claimed they were unaware what the difference was between what their casuals earned and what direct permanents earned with the mining operators.

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