The man on the stair who isn’t really there

On August 26 2022, Australia’s Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Tony Burke, spoke at a union conference.  This is not an unusual event for Ministers, but the timing of Burke’s address was less than a week before a major Jobs and Skills Summit – the hottest political event in town at the moment.  The transcript of the speech provides clues and hints as to how occupational health and safety (OHS) may or may not be discussed.

There is an early indication that safe workplaces are important (heart skips a beat), but then it seems shunted to the side.  Burke said:

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OHS issues for the Jobs and Skills Summit

Last week the Australian Government released an issues paper for its upcoming Jobs and Skills Summit. The main topics are broad but still not as inclusive as possible. The paper says:

“The goal of the Summit is to find common ground on how Australia can build a bigger, better trained and more productive workforce; boost real wages and living standards; and create more opportunities for more Australians.”

Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) is relevant to training, productivity, and living standards but is hardly mentioned in the issues paper and is likely to be ignored in the Summit itself, even though the issues paper includes a question about workplace safety,

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Major omissions from business perspective before the Jobs and Skills Summit

Next month the Australian government is conducting a “Jobs and Skills Summit“. Such consultative events have been held every so often for decades but usually after a new government is sworn in and after the previous one was in power for too long or lost its way. Such summits are seen as ways of reconnecting with disaffected and disempowered industry associations, trade unions and other organisations with the ear of the incoming government.

One of the most vocal industry associations is the Business Council of Australia. The BCA has existed since 1983. Its Wikipedia entry lists its large corporate membership, providing context to its policies and positions. On August 15 2022, its CEO Jennifer Westacott had an opinion piece, “What a Jobs Summit ‘win’ would look like“, published in the Australian Financial Review, but with a different headline. Workplace safety was mentioned in passing but is hiding in the subtext elsewhere.

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Guilt, shame, dissatisfaction: workers and customers on the gig economy (and how to make it better)

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


The gig economy is in trouble. Rideshare drivers are cancelling in droves. Wait times for food delivery are ballooning out and driver shortages are leading to food waste.

So, what’s going on? To find out more, I interviewed 30 Melbourne gig workers who worked as rideshare drivers, food deliverers or for task-based platforms such as Airtasker.

I also spoke to 30 customers who use such services, and to 20 industry stakeholders. My colleague, Elizabeth Straughan from the University of Melbourne, conducted a further ten interviews with gig workers after the pandemic set in, to learn how they’d been affected.

Continue reading “Guilt, shame, dissatisfaction: workers and customers on the gig economy (and how to make it better)”

Possible Treasury and Industrial Relations white papers before the Job Summit and October Budget

So what level and type of well-being budget did Dr Jim Chalmers commit his government to? A lot less than we anticipated last week. Dr Chalmers gave a nod to the work of his New Zealand counterpart but seems to be waiting for further discussion in the “jobs summit” in September 2022.

Michelle Grattan has written that:

“A coming test for consensus will be the September jobs summit. This will be an ideas-gathering exercise, but the government will also want to shape it as a prelude to the October budget, and that will require some common messages.”

Regardless of Dr Chalmers’ intention to develop a well-being budget, the jobs summit will have the same tripartite of industrial relations and occupational health and safety (OHS) invitees. Unless Dr Chalmers and Treasury offer up something fresh, like an OHS perspective on the prevention of mental health, innovation is unlikely. Little more than “in-principle” agreements should be anticipated.

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Expand “Safety Differently” to “Work Differently”

Occupational health and safety is as much at risk of hypocrisy as any other business element. Perhaps moreso as it is full of trite cliches. Many people find it easier to identify hypocrisy when it is shown by others and Australian media company SBS provided an example recently.

According to an article in The Age newspaper on June 26, 2002 (not yet available online, image below), SBS had commissioned an independent production company, Fell Swoop Pictures, to produce a series about the exploitation of food delivery gig workers. This is a legitimate topic for depiction, especially after five food delivery workers were killed in Australia recently over a short period of time. The income levels of this type of worker have been a feature of many of the concerns raised by trade unions and others, and that has been highlighted in several formal inquiries into the industry sector.

Sadly Fell Swoop Pictures promoted the opportunity to be an Extra in a series about exploitation without the Extras being paid!!

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