The next gig job must be safer and healthier

A man in different kind of occupations. Credit:
bowie15

A lot of focus is currently on casual workers as their jobs disappear due to the responses to the COVID19 coronavirus. Australia has around 2.6 million of them and there are many more workers who may be classified as Part Time but operate on uncertain rosters and are, in reality, as precarious as casual employees. Occupational health and safety (OHS) is struggling to address the hazards presented by modern variations of precarious work, such as gig economy workers, because it, and government economic and employment policy more generally, is structured on the assumption of Full Time Employment (FTE) with work occurring mainly from nine to five, on weekdays with weekends off.

Consideration of precarious worker OHS may seem a lesser priority at the moment as many of us are quarantined or quarantine by choice but at some point, hopefully, within the next twelve months, business will resume. However, that business model and structure is unlikely to be the same. Indeed, it should not be same as the risk profile for all businesses and the community generally has changed. So, let’s have a look at some of the recent thinking about precarious work and the OHS risks so that we can build a better, safer model.

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Final Sexual Harassment Inquiry report

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“The Sex Discrimination Commissioner has come out with something that is clear, which is that sexual harassment is a workplace right, is a health and safety right, is a human right.” [??!!]

What would be more accurate and reflective of Michele O’Neil’s position is that workers have a human, health and safety, and workplace right to a workplace that is without the risk of sexual harassment.  The ACTU President gets the message right in the official media release.

O’Neill urges the Morrison Government to take the final report into sexual harassment in Australian workplaces and its recommendations seriously and it should, but the signs are not good.  The mainstream media coverage of the Workplace Sexual Harassment Inquiry’s report has been thin. 

Continue reading “Final Sexual Harassment Inquiry report”

Alright stop, collaborate and listen

On 2 December 2019, Australia’s Attorney-General, Christian Porter released a discussion paper about workplace relations in the hope of sparking contributions on how cooperative workplaces can create productivity improvements. Any discussion paper on productivity and workplace from the current conservative government is loaded with neoliberal ideology but one of the questions posed is:

“What has been the experience with techniques and practices to foster cooperative workplaces including…. Collaborative development of Health and Safety policies.”

It is not unreasonable for this to be seen as an opening for a broad discussion about the concept of Consultation included in Australia’s workplace health and safety laws, as the improvement of health and safety requires collaboration, trust respect and other elements in the discussion paper. The parallels between Collaboration and Consultation were on show at the Australian Labor Party’s national conference twelve months ago.

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OHS in politics this week

Foggy Winter Morning,Aerial view of the Parliament House Canberra,taken at Red Hill Lookout, Canberra,Australia.

Occupational health and safety (OHS) popped up in the Australian Parliament this week in odd, oblique ways. OHS was tied to

  • asbestos imports,
  • the Ensuring Integrity Bill,
  • a construction company owner in Western Australia, and
  • sexual harassment.

Question and Answers

On September 19 2019 several questions were put about the importation of asbestos containing products. The Government through the Home Affairs Minister, Peter Dutton, advised that:

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Listening anew to the voice that has always been there

The growth of visible and prominent customer services, such as those in the collective term of “gig economy” – has coincided with an increased consideration of alternative socioeconomic structures and broader political diversity, especially in the UK and to a lesser extent Australia and New Zealand. One manifestation of this change is an emerging consideration of Co-operatives and worker ownership. This may seem outside the occupational health and safety (OHS) purview of this blog but co-operatives often allow workers more input into business operations and therefore more influence on OHS standards and management. However, should this influence come from increased worker wealth or is OHS more fundamental than money?

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