Archive for May 25th, 2008

Protecting vulnerable workers: still work to do

May 25, 2008

Overshadowed by the Budget, the Minimum Wage and Remuneration Amendment Bill passed its second reading last week. I missed it amongst the Budget excitment, but Stargazer picked it up. It’s important.

The Bill provides minimum wage rights to workers employed as independent or dependent contractors. (The latter depend on their employer for work, as many truck drivers do, for example.) These workers are not covered by most of the laws that give employed workers rights to paid holidays, paid parental leave, wages protection, personal grievances and so on. The Health & Safety in Employment Act is a rare exception.

This is not a problem for those workers who are truly in business in their own right. IT specialists, graphic artists and the like. They tend to have sought-after skills and can look after themselves. They choose to work as contractors for the flexibility, freedom from dopey bosses, etc.

It is a problem where the legal distinction is used as a loophole by unscrupulous employers to avoid their obligations to their employees. Too often the contractual relationship is a facade for exploitation.