The Government’s commitment to investigate better and more secure job creation opportunities for Australia’s manufacturing sector shows Labor is listening to workers’ concerns, say unions.
“Unions are pleased the Government has listened to us and will set up a taskforce chaired by the Prime Minister to identify solutions to issues facing the manufacturing industry,” ACTU President Ged Kearney said.
“Job insecurity is a major issue facing the Australian workforce, with 40% of workers engaged in precarious work, and the concept is especially prevalent for the manufacturing sector, where 65,000 job losses have occurred in the past few years.
“It is important that representatives from unions, employers and Government be involved in this taskforce because manufacturing remains one of our most important industries."
The growth in commodity prices, the boom in mining and the increase in the dollar have largely been responsible for the job losses.
But manufacturing still employs a million people jobs – five times more than mining.
“Manufacturing must be part of Australia’s future, if we are to keep a balanced economy that does not rise and fall solely on commodity prices.
"But it is essential that we support the industry and the workers that rely on it to make a living.”
Ms Kearney said the Government’s commitment was a good first step towards developing real solutions to the challenges facing the Australian economy.
“But we also need to consider the challenges facing other sectors, particularly the services, tourism, retail and textile, clothing and footwear industries, where insecure work is largely prevalent,” she said.
“It is appropriate that we had the Jobs Forum just one day before World Decent Day for Work, which is this year focusing on precarious work."
In Australia, more than 40% of workers do not have permanent work and are either employed as casuals, contractors, fixed term or labour hire.
They do not have all the same rights as the rest of the workforce and cannot plan for the future.
According to the ILO, at least half of the world’s workforce is engaged in various forms of vulnerable work.
And the challenge of finding decent work will become increasingly difficult as a further 45 million young people are predicted to join the ranks of the unemployed in the coming decade.
“Australia moved through the Global Financial Crisis in better shape than any other developed country, yet our proportion of workers in insecure employment is the second highest in the OECD,” Ms Kearney said.
“Given the strength of the Australian economy and decades of sustained economic growth, there is no justification for why the proportion of the workforce with insecure jobs is so high.
“This is an appalling statistic for Australia to own and there is absolutely no economic justification for it. Workers have told us they want a job they can rely on, which is why unions’ Secure Jobs.
"Better Future campaign will speak up for this large, often disenfranchised sector of the workforce, and work towards change for the better.”
Ms Kearney said unions were pleased the Government had listened to the concerns of workers at today’s Jobs Forum and had committed to moving forward.