THE federal government would "very quickly" work out the flow-on effects of the WorkPac v Rossato court case, with Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter saying it was "not in anyone's mutual interests" for employers' costs to rise during the nation's "greatest ever" challenge.
Mr Porter, who is also the Attorney-General, said yesterday there were "some surprising elements" to Wednesday's decision that could have "a very, very significant impact on business".
The government would get involved if labour hire firm WorkPac appealed the verdict to the High Court.
Mr Porter said the case was not about workplace entitlements, in that "everyone accepts" that casual employees should be paid a "significant increase in loading" in lieu of paid leave and other entitlements available to paid and part-time workers.
He said the decision was a "driver of uncertainty" in the labour market and had "in effect, produced very great changes in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic".
He said the way forward was through "genuine consultation".
This consultation had to give "greater clarity and certainty and universality" in relation to the right of casual workers to "to request a conversion from casual to permanency" once they had been in the job for "a considerable period of time".
Labor industrial relations spokesperson Tony Bourke warned against countering the decision, saying changing the Fair Work Act would "provide a protection racket for employers who have broken the law".
Despite Mr Porter's comments about casuals earning higher hourly rates in lieu of entitlements, parliament has repeatedly heard that coal industry casuals earn far less than their permanent counterparts, while doing the same work on the same year-long rosters, all approved by the Fair Work Commission.
Charles Cameron, chief executive of the Recruitment, Consulting and Staffing Association, said labour hire was "the original union disrupter", and unions wanted the firms involved "removed from the economy".
Mr Cameron said Rossato and the related Skene verdict made it harder for labour hire firms to make businesses happy by simplifying labour issues and workers happy by providing regular and reliable work opportunities.
"The problem with the Skene and Rossato decisions is that they promote less certainty and predictability for casual employees because most businesses are unable to provide permanent work because business conditions are increasingly unpredictable," Mr Cameron said.
"Mines are no different.
"Commodity prices and business conditions change regularly because of global factors and domestic regulatory factors."
CFMEU member Chad Stokes said Rossato was a great decision.
"I have been a casual for more than five years.
'"There's no job security and it affects your family life. It really takes its toll. I hope the government stands up against casualisation, it's important for this generation and the next.
"I don't want my kids to go through this."
CFMEU president Tony Maher said the best response to Rossato from mining companies would be to give up their "unfair and socially damaging business model".
"The federal government should now back in this decision with a definition of casual work as intermittent and irregular," Mr Maher said.
"We need stronger workplace laws that require workers doing the same job at the same mine site to be employed on the same conditions under the site enterprise agreement.
"Let's not forget recent modelling produced by the McKell Institute showing that the labour hire business model is robbing the Hunter Valley economy by nearly $300 million a year.
"The casual labour hire rort is a cash grab by some of the world's biggest multinational mining companies.
"This is the second federal court decision [after Skene] saying it is unlawful, it has got to stop."
As the Newcastle Herald reported yesterday, the Rossato decision was acknowledged to be long overdue, which Mr Porter acknowledged during the day when questioned by journalists at Yanchep in his electorate of Pearce, north of Perth.
"We have been waiting on the decision because whichever way the decision went it was going to have a very serious and significant impact on Australian business and on Australian employment," Mr Porter said.
"It was always our intention that as soon as the decision was made that we would be consulting on what may or may not need to occur as a result."
Later confirming the government would likely intervene if WorkPac was able to appeal the decision in the High Court, Mr Porter said the government would not be rushed into making a quick decision on the impacts of the case.
"The other point is that obviously that consultation is going to have to occur in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic," Mr Porter said.
"Business probably faces its greatest challenges and employment faces its greatest challenges perhaps in our nation's history.
"So the timing of this decision clearly is not ideal and we'll have an urgent consultative and cooperative response to try and work out what is the best path forward."
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