Thursday, June 08, 2006

Independent contractors

I am currently writing a paper for the Australasian Political Studies Association conference on the political implications of the (overstated but notable) growth in self-employment and small business. There is a strange right-wing anti-capitalism associated with the Institute of Public Affairs according to which self-employment is replacing wage labour so unions are obsolete. This argument underpins proposed legislation that seeks to prevent independent contracts from being 'deemed' to be employees although the government promises that 'sham' arrangements that serve to evade industrial entitlements will continue to be outlawed, obviously there definition of sham arrangements will however be narrower than that under current legislation. The government has promised that owner-drivers will retain their existing protections under NSW and Victorian legislation. But this has evoked opposition on the Coalition backbench workplace relations committee:
A committee member, Wilson Tuckey, yesterday said that Mr Andrews was surprised at the level of backbench angst at the plan to allow the Transport Workers Union to represent NSW and Victorian owner-drivers. "But it hasn't shifted him," Mr Tuckey said. "It's going to be a case of whether the minister can stare down his committee. "… it's not a small matter if trade unions are to be allowed to stick [their] noses in small businesses," Mr Tuckey said....[the Minister] said these drivers had "particular vulnerabilities" and needed "special protections". Their exemption averted major protests by truck drivers, which was likely to reflect badly on the Government. The union's role was to continue, NSW could adjudicate pay and conditions, and a Victorian tribunal would set rates there.
Obviously this is about big business not small business, the later seems to want industrial protection, I see that the so-called Independent Contractors Association has opposed the continuation of protection for owner-drivers, how independent is this organisation, when its executive director Ken Philips is also with the IPA. I suspect these are the 'independent contractors' that have supposedly been lobbying the government against protection for owner-drivers. Strangely Crikey (23 May 2006) had a long attack on the government's legislation echoing the backbench complaints and blaming of all people my former local MP Christian conservative Alan Cadman for assisting the TWU.

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