Fewer jobs, less growth: Fears of WA business laid bare in survey on Federal workplace reforms

A comprehensive survey of Western Australian businesses has found many would be forced to cut staff numbers or scale back operations in response to the Federal Government’s proposed workplace reforms.

The CCIWA survey of almost 600 businesses, across all sectors of the economy, found the most concerning elements of the Closing Loopholes Bill were the changes to casual employment and the use of labour hire.

Around 3 in 4 (73%) of businesses surveyed said changes to the definition of casual employment, allowing some workers to convert to permanent after six months, would be damaging to their business.

More than half (56%) of all respondents said the changes would stop them from hiring casuals altogether.

The sectors most concerned about changes to casual employment were agriculture, hospitality and retail.

Using these results, CCIWA estimates approximately 17,900 businesses would be at risk of reducing staff numbers if the changes to casual employment were to be passed into law, placing around 64,800 jobs at risk.

Approximately 5,300 businesses would further be at risk of having to close due to these changes.

CCIWA Chief Executive, Chris Rodwell, said the result was alarming.

“This aspect of the proposed changes has emerged as the most concerning to our members, and they’re right to be worried,” Mr Rodwell said.

“The changes to casual employment will not only make employers reluctant to take on new casuals, it will also create significant red-tape headaches for those that already employ them, with financial penalties that kick in for those employers if a worker is wrongly classified.

“These changes have the real potential to be a handbrake on jobs in WA.”

Changes to labour hire also emerged as a significant area of concern for WA businesses.

Two out of three businesses (66%) said the changes to labour hire laws will be “extremely damaging” (26%) or “damaging” (40%).

Around half (49%) of those surveyed said they would reduce staff levels in response, while 27% said it would reduce their ability to tender for new projects, and 23% said they would have to scale down their business.

Mr Rodwell said the attack on labour hire firms will disproportionately affect WA, because of its widespread use in the mining industry.

“Miners use labour hire for legitimate reasons, including commodity prices and surges in demand,” he said.

“Our members include businesses all the way through the mining supply chain and these results show they are deeply concerned about the impact of changes to labour hire on their businesses.

“It also remains to be seen what impact these changes will have on service contractors who supply specialist staff to major projects – there’s nothing in this Bill to stop them from being caught in the web.”

Mr Rodwell said he looked forward to presenting the concerns of WA businesses at the Senate Inquiry into the Bill when it holds its hearings in Perth today.

“We’ve engaged extensively with our members since the detail of this Bill was made public and the concern from business in WA has been palpable,” he said.

“We are pleased the Committee agreed to hold a hearing in Perth, because WA is different to the rest of Australia.

“Our state’s economy – which holds up the nation’s bottom line – does not operate like the economies on the East Coast and these proposed changes do not reflect the realities of doing business in WA.”

Note: CCIWA received 583 responses to the survey over a two-week period, giving a high level of confidence in the data presented. 

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