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Unpaid Superannuation Now Treated as Wage Theft: Greens Secure Major Amendments to Closing Loopholes Bill

In a significant legislative victory, the Greens have successfully negotiated with the Albanese Government to include substantial amendments to the Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Closing Loopholes) Bill 2023. This move marks a pivotal shift in addressing unpaid superannuation, equating it to wage theft, and aims to bolster job security for teachers while preventing employers from exploiting intractable bargaining declarations.

Unpaid Superannuation Now Treated as Wage Theft: Greens Secure Major Amendments to Closing Loopholes Bill
Unpaid Superannuation Now Treated as Wage Theft: Greens Secure Major Amendments to Closing Loopholes Bill

Key Amendments Secured

Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke introduced these pivotal amendments, which were reached in agreement with employer groups concerning casual work, gig economy workers, and service contractors. The amendments reflect the Greens' ongoing commitment to workers' rights and include the following critical changes:


1. Superannuation Theft as Wage Theft: The amendments place unpaid superannuation in the same legal category as wage theft. This categorisation will see the most serious cases of superannuation theft criminalised under the Closing Loopholes Bill. This is a landmark step in safeguarding workers' retirement funds and ensuring employers are held accountable for their financial obligations to their employees.


2. Job Security for Educators: The amendments ensure that teachers and lecturers cannot be classified as undertaking seasonal work. This closes a loophole that previously allowed employers to terminate their contracts at the end of a teaching term and rehire them in the new year. By securing this change, the Greens aim to provide greater stability and job security for educators.


3. Preventing Bargaining Exploitation: Another critical amendment addresses an "unintended loophole" in enterprise agreement negotiations. Employers will no longer be able to stonewall and delay negotiations to push them off to arbitration, where they might seek to roll back hard-won conditions. This change aims to level the playing field in enterprise bargaining, ensuring fairer outcomes for workers.


The Greens' Advocacy

Greens leader Adam Bandt emphasised that these changes are crucial in lifting wages and empowering workers in their fight for fair pay and conditions. "The Greens amendments help fix problems that have seen workers' superannuation stolen, left teachers unprotected from being pushed into casual work, and given big employers the upper hand in enterprise bargaining negotiations," Bandt stated.


Senator Barbara Pocock echoed this sentiment, highlighting the substantial impact of these amendments on Australian workers. "Superannuation is not an 'optional extra' and the amendments would reduce super theft," she said. According to Pocock, the average worker is out of pocket by $1,700 annually due to unpaid superannuation, amounting to a staggering $3.4 billion each year.


Pocock also noted the benefits these amendments bring to educators. "Many teachers in schools and universities are in precarious employment working on casual fixed-term contracts. The Government has agreed to our proposal to specifically exclude 'university semester and school term from the definition of a specified season'," she explained. This change will provide much-needed clarity and stability to up to 60,000 university workers and tens of thousands of school teachers.


Continuing the Fight

While these amendments mark a significant step forward, the Greens are not resting on their laurels. Senator Pocock is continuing to push for further concessions in the Upper House, including the right to disconnect from work. This initiative aims to address the growing concern over work-life balance and the impact of constant connectivity on workers' well-being.


The Greens' commitment to advocating for workers' rights remains unwavering as they strive to secure a fairer and more just workplace environment for all Australians.


Legislative References

- Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Closing Loopholes) Bill 2023: The primary legislation under which these amendments have been made, addressing various aspects of workplace relations, including casual work and gig economy protections.


Conclusion

The successful negotiation of these amendments is a testament to the Greens' dedication to protecting Australian workers. By treating unpaid superannuation as wage theft, securing job stability for educators, and preventing exploitation in enterprise bargaining, the Greens have ensured significant legislative advancements that will benefit countless workers across the nation. As the fight for further concessions continues, the focus remains on creating a fairer, more equitable workplace for all.

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