The committee recommends that the Australian Government introduces a policy stating that an objective of all public funding for employment, or the provision of goods and services, is to protect and promote secure employment.
The policy should require that all such recipients of Australian Government funding preference the direct, permanent employment of staff, rather than indirect arrangements including outsourced service providers or labour hire firms or temporary arrangements including casual or fixed-term employment, wherever practical.
The policy should recognise there is a legitimate role for contracting and subcontracting arrangements in the Australian Government's supply chain, but that workers engaged under these arrangements are entitled to pay and conditions no less than an employee would receive for the same job.
The policy should apply to funding provided to the Australian Public Service, Government Business Enterprises, and private organisations including but not limited to aged and disability care providers, universities, construction firms and service providers engaged to deliver public infrastructure projects such as the National Broadband Network.
The policy should require the Australian Government's procurement framework to prioritise firms that favour a permanent, directly-engaged workforce, and to consider the economic and social benefits of tenders.
The policy should also require the Australian Government to ensure that the funding for projects, goods and services is sufficient to enable the organisation to hire its workforce in permanent, secure employment on rates at least compliant with the relevant Award and a living wage.
The committee recommends that the Australian Government conducts the Aged Care Workforce Census in 2021/2022, to ensure that this critical data is available for policy development. The survey should be distributed to labour hire, agency, on-demand platform and self-employed aged care workers, as well as directly‑employed workers.
Along with the data collected in previous surveys, the survey should include:
questions on contracted hours;
questions on actual hours worked;
questions on salary and/or wages earned;
questions on multiple job holding, and working across multiple sites, and individuals' motivations for these; and
diversity of the aged care workforce, including with respect to gender, cultural diversity, and visa status.
The committee recommends that, as part of the Star Rating system, and any other relevant assessment or grading system, the Australian Government requires aged care providers to report on, not just their staffing levels, but also:
the proportion of staff in direct, permanent employment arrangements;
the staffing classification mix;
hours of paid training provided to staff; and
The committee recommends that the Australian Government requires, as an ongoing condition of holding an approval to provide aged care services, that aged care providers report on:
the proportion of staff that are full-time, part-time, casual, on-demand platform and agency/labour hire workers;
the number of contracted staff hours and rostered staff hours;
the staffing classification mix;
the proportion of spending on frontline staffing and employment costs, other operational expenses, profits and surpluses, and other key indices; and
non-minimisation and non-avoidance of Australian tax laws.
The committee recommends the Australian Government develops an aged care provider procurement policy that actively promotes job security in the sector, recognises the benefits of secure, on‑going permanent employment to the delivery of safe, high-quality aged care, and specifies that the establishment of secure, direct, and fair-paid jobs is a key criterion of aged care investment.
The committee recommends the Australian Government works with unions, service providers and employers to amend relevant Awards to ensure the widespread practice of low minimum-hours part-time contracts is restricted, including consideration of:
specifying a minimum number of part-time hours that can be included in standard contracts;
requiring employers to pay over-time rates for hours worked over and above contracted hours;
including automatic mechanisms for review—for instance, if after six months an employee is consistently working above contracted hours, they should be offered the opportunity for the contract to be amended to reflect the actual hours worked; and
employees consistently working over 35 hours per week for 12 months or longer—regardless of the pattern of hours—should be offered full-time employment.
The committee also recommends that these provisions should be easily enforceable and include anti-avoidance mechanisms.
The committee recommends that the Australian Government urgently develops a new National Higher Education Funding Strategy for the period 2021–2025. The new strategy should recognise and address:
the real cost of delivering high quality tertiary education including administration, marking, and ensuring staff and student wellbeing;
the role of research as a core university function;
increasing casualisation in university workforces;
revenue stabilisation and diversification, particularly with regard to the shift in international student enrolments;
the role for government in mandating and enforcing secure and fair employment practices in tertiary education; and
the need for an increase in government funding to the sector.
The committee recommends that the Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment works closely with universities, workers, experts, the National Tertiary Education Union, and relevant sector bodies, to design a system of casual and fixed-term conversion that would be appropriate for the higher education sector.
This system should include sector-appropriate definitions of casual and fixed-term work, and limit the use of casual and fixed-term employment to genuinely non-ongoing work.
The committee recommends that the Australian Government requires all universities to provide a more detailed report of their staffing composition to the Department of Education, Skills and Employment, including:
annualised data on permanent, fixed-term and casual staff in terms of both headcounts and full-time equivalents;
annualised data on the use of labour hire and other external contractors; and
annualised detailed data around gender, cultural diversity, age, earnings, length of service and retention rates for casual staff, and compared with permanent staff.
The committee recommends that the Australian Government requires, as a condition of receiving public funding, universities to set publicly-available targets for increasing permanent employment, and reducing casualisation, and report their progress against these targets on an annual basis. The targets should be established in consultation with industry experts, workers and the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU).
The Department of Education, Skills and Employment should review the impact of this measure after three years, and—if it has not been effective in reducing the level of casualisation—the Australian Government should then work with universities and the NTEU to impose meaningful but achievable funding-linked targets.
The committee recommends that the Australian Government:
removes the average staffing level cap;
identifies skill gaps that have led to the regular engagement of external workers, and develops plans to eliminate these gaps and build in-house capabilities;
internalises work of an ongoing and regular nature which is currently undertaken by contractors and consultants, including labour hire;
encourages the transfer of skills and knowledge from external workers to internal Australian Public Service employees; and
places an upper limit on the expenditure on consultants and contractors, and utilises savings to increase the capability and capacity of the Australian Public Service.
The committee recommends that the Australian Government requires:
the Australian Public Service Commission to collect and publish agency and service-wide data on the Government's utilisation of contractors, consultants, and labour hire workers;
the Department of Finance to regularly collect and publish service-wide expenditure data on contractors, consultants, and labour hire workers, including the cost differential between direct employment and external employment; and
labour-hire firms to disclose disaggregated pay rates and employee conditions.
The committee recommends that the Australian Government introduces a supplier code of conduct which would, amongst other things, provide minimum expectations around:
job security and the utilisation of local workforces;
occupational health and safety;
transparency, non-minimisation and non-avoidance of tax obligations.
The committee recommends that the Australian Government eliminates the technical capability gap resulting from an over‑reliance on the use of external contractors and ensures that the Australian Public Service (APS) becomes a digital leader. In doing so, the committee suggests the Government:
commits to ongoing investment in information and communication technology (ICT) systems, staff, and skills;
improves the standard of ICT systems to that of leading private sector companies;
builds the expertise and knowledge of the APS to develop and deliver ICT solutions; and
makes the APS an employer of choice for ICT and digital professionals by developing career pathways, learning and development programs, appropriate classifications, and competitive remuneration packages.
The committee recommends that the Australian Government amends the NBN Co Ministerial Statement of Expectations to explicitly state that NBN Co is responsible for conditions of work, exploitation and corruption that occurs in its supply chain, including for subcontractors engaged by Delivery Partners or Prime Contractors. NBN Co should be directed to prepare and publish a plan for how NBN Co will safeguard, monitor and enforce sustainable rates of pay and fair working conditions for NBN technicians.
The committee also recommends that the number of vertical subcontracting arrangements be limited to enhance transparency and accountability, to reduce the inefficient outlay of taxpayer funds and wage suppression that result when too many layers of subcontracting are in the delivery chain, and to promote secure ongoing direct employment by Delivery Partners as the preferred model of workforce engagement.