THE use of temporary workers in Australia is now seen as a long-term staffing strategy for employers rather than a “quick fix”, new research shows.
Research from recruitment firm Hays shows the use of casual workers is on the rise, with 38.5 per cent of employers increasing temporary staff in the past 12 months.
This comes as Australian Council of Trade Unions president Ged Kearney this week announced the ACTU will hold a summit on insecure work next March in a push to make temporary workers an issue in the lead up to next year’s federal election.
The research showed 83.1 per cent of employers say temporary workers make up to 25 per cent of their workforce.
Hays managing director Nick Deligiannis said contractors have typically been seen as a stop gap measure, but are now being built into the strategy of organisations.
“From an employer point of view it gives me flexibility, when I need extra resources I can bring them in and scale my cost base accordingly,” Mr Deligiannis said.
“I can scale it to needs, projects, if volume of activity goes up in peak times of the year or to cover absenteeism.”
The survey shows the public sector (28.9 per cent), construction, property and engineering (21.9 per cent) and resources and mining (17.1 per cent) industries are those using temporary workers the most.
And almost a third of organisations (31.2 per cent) said they see temporary workers as a key component of their long-term staffing strategy.
One quarter (25.8 per cent) of employers see contract staff as a “means to overcome permanent headcount restrictions”, 24.2 per cent see them as “essential to the success of my organisation”, 11.8 per cent use contractors as a “temporary cost reduction measure” and 7 per cent employ temporary staff “as a means of reducing permanent headcount”.
But what does this mean for you, the casual worker? Tell us about the positives and negatives below
Mr Deligiannis said many employees enjoy temporary work because of the flexibility and the opportunity to develop new skills in different workplaces.
“[But] I think what you’ll find certainly temporary work isn’t for everyone,” he said.
“If someone wants tenure over a certain period of time and wants benefits … Employees need to look at whether they are happy to look at [temporary work] as an interim measure.”
ABS figures show there are 877,600 Australians who are underemployed – meaning they are employed but want more hours of work than they currently have.
An ACTU spokesman said temporary contracts suit employers because they “shift risk onto the shoulders of workers”.
“If demand for work drops off, it is the temporary worker that is left trying to find alternative work to pay their bills,” he said.
“Some workers may prefer temporary contracts, but the majority take them because there is no permanent work available. Being able to pay bills or a mortgage depends on having a steady income, and this is often not possible when workers are stuck in a succession of temporary contracts.”
Bill Mitchell, director of the Centre of Full Employment and Equity, said 20-30 year olds will be the first cohort to be affected by the rise of temporary work “in a big way”.
“In 30 years time they will have very little superannuation, they will be locked out of the property market, locked out of usual entitlements,” said Mr Mitchell, professor at Charles Darwin University.
“In 30 years time we’re going to have this mess of people without any substantial backing into their retirements.”