Standing with workers and unions and fighting for a fair go for temporary and casual staff
Tens of thousands of public sector workers, including teachers and nurses, are being denied permanent contracts and are instead being strung along on casual and temporary contracts with no job security, less rights than their colleagues, and without any certainty of where or if they'll have a job in the months ahead.
Right now, the Labor government’s practice of keeping staff on temporary or casual contracts is causing public schools and hospital workers to leave the profession entirely. This year we have seen the teaching and nursing shortage worsen, and our hospitals and schools are feeling the crunch. Teachers and nurses are crying out for more support.
The Government's Public Sector Bill 2022 entrenches systemic issues, and continues to deny much needed job security for nurses and teachers.
The Queensland Teachers Union and the Queensland Nurses and Midwives Union called on the government to ensure workers have access to the secure, permanent positions they deserve, and which are needed for a stable and effective public service.
When teachers and nurses are strung along with temporary and casual contracts they struggle to get home loans, they can’t get car loans, they can’t settle down and build community, they can’t build lasting professional relationships with colleagues, they can’t live with the security and peace of mind that our school and hospital workers deserve.
Ensuring our public sector workers have permanent work is about protecting the interests of workers everywhere. A well funded, efficient, and compassionate public sector that provides long-term opportunities signals to the private sector that they need to do the same or risk losing talent.
The Human Rights Commission says that the gender pay gap is linked to a lack of permanency in professions with a high representation of women such as in healthcare and teaching.
When schools and hospitals don't have a stable and permanent workforce, their effectiveness suffers. It is hard to administer and organise large workplaces such as hospitals, schools, and other public sector institutions without knowing who will be on the books in six months, or when talent is continually leaving Queensland’s public sector for greener pastures.
Queenslanders depend on nurses and teachers and public sector workers. We should not and we do not undervalue them, but this government does. By ignoring workers and ignoring unions, this government is ignoring the needs of Queensland.
Fighting to include LGBTQIA+ people in the government's diversity and inclusivity measures
The government's Public Sector Bill 2022 excludes LGBTQIA+ from its diversity target groups. LGBTQIA+ people should be included alongside Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islander people, people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, people with disabilities, and women, in diversity legislation.
A lack of diversity and inclusivity in the public sector is inherently detrimental to public entities’ ability to perform their obligations to the public. The public sector cannot represent and serve the needs of the community if it is not reflective of the diversity within the community. Yet this government says that there is no evidence that LGBTQI+ face discrimination or barriers within the public sector.
Workers, unions and the Greens disagree.
For details of the amendments I moved to the Public Sector Bill 2022 please see a copy of the explanatory notes below.
Explanatory Notes to Amendments to be moved during consideration in detail by Dr Amy MacMahon MP: Public Sector Bill 2022
These amendments during consideration in detail (ACiDs) of the Public Sector Bill 2022 (the Bill) will improve the rights of employees working in public sector entities, the effectiveness of public sector entities in performing their obligations to the public, and strengthen the responsibilities that public sector entities have to the diverse communities which comprise Queensland.
Without these amendments, the Bill will:
- Deny workers the adequate working conditions and job security necessary for the welfare of workers and for a competent and stable public sector capable of effectively performing its obligations.
- Fail in its purported aims of promoting equity, diversity, respect and inclusion.
- Fail to ensure equity between diverse people in recruitment and pay.
The Bill denies workers adequate working conditions and job security
Consultation with workers in the public sector such as teachers, nurses and other Queensland Health and Queensland Education employees highlights the growing issue of job insecurity. These public sector entities, along with others, are over-reliant on casual and contract workers in their operations to the detriment of workers and the operational efficacy of these entities. A government should be a model employer, demonstrating to the public sector how employees should be engaged. The Queensland government is not meeting this standard.
The Bill in its current form does not satisfy the recommendations of the Bridgeman report that permanency for ongoing work should be the norm, with temporary contracts being limited to temporary circumstances. This Bill will not prevent the practice of casualisation and indefinite temporary work under this government from continuing.
The Coaldrake and Bridgman reports indicate declining job satisfaction and worker happiness, as well as an ageing public sector workforce, a lack of skills and skills retention, and issues with bullying and inclusion. Shortages in healthcare and teaching professions have been widely reported.
Submissions on the Bill made by the Queensland Council of Unions (QCU), Together, Queensland Nurses and Midwives’ Union (QNMU), and Queensland Teachers’ Union (QTU) all advocate for strengthening the right for permanency.
The Human Rights Commission submits that the gender pay gap in the public sector is linked to an over-representation of women in casual, part-time and temporary work.
The Bill fails to meaningfully address the issues with the State’s relationship with Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islander peoples
Clause 19 states the purpose of Part 3 of the legislation is to reframe the State’s relationship with Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islander peoples and “foster a culturally capable workforce and a culturally safe workplace by developing the cultural capability of the [public] entities”. Clause 21 (2) highlights ways in which public entities can achieve this, but s 21 (4) makes it apparent there is no legal onus or obligation for entities to comply with the proposed means of achieving the purpose of Part 3.
In their submission, Queensland Indigenous Family Violence Legal Service welcomed the recognition of supporting the State to reframe the relationship between the Government and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, but highlight the importance of improvement particularly in regards to recruitment and representation of First Nations people in the public sector.
There is no requirement for public sector entities to comply with their responsibilities or aims of reframing in their operations or recruitment practices.
The Bill fails to meaningfully address issues of inclusion and diversity within the public sector
A lack of diversity and inclusivity in the public sector is inherently detrimental to public entities’ ability to perform their obligations to the public. The public sector cannot represent and serve the needs of the community if it is not reflective of the diversity within the community. Issues of inclusion and diversity within public entities are not adequately addressed. The QTU included in their submission the following:
The QTU maintains that the disadvantage experienced by members of the LGBTIQ+ community warrants their inclusion as a fifth diversity target group. We note the assertion made at the consultation meetings that there is “no evidence base to suggest that other groups require a targeted response”, but reject it.
The QTU also references workforce data and academic research highlighting the disadvantages LGBTIQ+ people face in the workforce, and their barriers to employment and career progression.
The QTU appropriately highlight that teachers are uniquely privileged and trusted with the mentoring of young people and the benefit to young people when the identities and experiences of their mentors correlate to their own. This is not only true for young LGBTQI+ people, but also children and young people who are disabled, First Nations, or from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
The benefits to the public and the improvement of efficacy of public entities when the public service is representative of the people they serve and represent, is not limited to teaching.
Together, QCU, QNMU, and the Human Rights Commission also all recommend including LGBTQI+ alongside existing diversity target groups, and these amendments will effect that.
The bill inappropriately excludes LGBTQI+ people from its measures to improve diversity and inclusion in the public sector, and does not require public sector entities make any improvement in their recruitment or operations in regard to diversity target groups or aims to reframe the state’s relationship with Indigenious peoples and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Achievement of the amendments
These amendments during consideration in detail (ACiDs) of the Public Sector Bill 2022 will ensure that:
- When a public sector employee has been employed for at least a year there is a requirement that they be offered permanency where the need for that position will be ongoing and the employee is suitable for that role.
- LGBTQI+ are included in the Bill’s provision pertaining to target diversity groups.
- Public entities may have regard to aims and responsibilities contained in provisions relating to reframing the State’s relationship with Indigenious peoples and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the public entity’s recruitment practices in addition to merit requirements.
- Public entities must have regard to aims and responsibilities contained in provisions relating to diversity and inclusion in the public entity’s operations.
Notes on provisions
Amendment 1 includes LGBTQI+ people in diversity targets.
Amendment 2 adds a duty to promote equity and diversity in public entities’ performance of obligations to the public.
Amendment 3 includes aims related to reframing the state’s relationship with Indigenious peoples and Torres Strait Islander peoples as matters which public entities may have regard to in recruitment practices.
Amendment 4 doubles the allowed time between periods of employment from 6 weeks to 12 weeks for the purpose of calculating a continuous period of employment.
Amendment 5 creates a requirement for chief executives to offer to transition casual and temporary workers to permanency after 1 year of continuous employment where there is a need for the role to continue and the employee is suitable to continue in that role.
Amendment 6 adds further details to be included in the statement to the employee should the chief executive decide not to offer permanancy.
Amendment 7 provides that if the chief executive fails to make a decision whether or not to offer permanency to the employee within the required timeframe, the chief executive is taken to have offered permanency.
Amendments 8-11 shortens the period of continuous employment before the chief executive must review employment status of temporary or casual workers from 2 years to 1.
Amendment 12 adds further details to be included in the statement to the employee should the chief executive decide not to offer permanancy.
Amendment 13 provides that if the chief executive fails to make a decision whether or not to offer permanency to the employee within the required timeframe, the chief executive is taken to have offered permanency.
Amendment 14 doubles the allowed time between periods of employment from 6 weeks to 12 weeks per year for the purpose of calculating a continuous period of employment per employment status review
Amendment 15-17 gives effect to the above changes.