2016-02-08 14:36:29 MediaRoom Speeches

Following is the opening address made by MEAA Victoria and Tasmania regional director Carolyn Dunbar to the Victorian Parliamentary inquiry into the Labour Hire Industry and Insecure Work in Melbourne on Monday, February 8, 2016. Read the MEAA submission here.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to our written submissions already made to this inquiry

MEAA covers a diverse range of trained creative professionals working within the media and entertainment industries, including journalists, artists, event and venue workers, race club attendants, dancers, musicians, film technicians.

Our submission addresses a broad range of issues that are evident in the creative industries, including the underemployment of actors and performers and the impact of episodic working arrangements on their health and wellbeing, the seismic shift of risk from the media corporation to the individual freelancer as a result of technological change in the global media industry and the impact of creeping labour hire in the events industry, particularly in publicly owned and operated venues.

To resolve many of these issues requires a suite of administrative and legislative measures, some of which the Victorian government cannot progress alone, however in our submission there are matters the Victorian government is very able to address.

To turn the tide of insecure work, it is MEAA’s recommendation that the government should adopt two guidelines:

•  Firstly, a default position whereby direct employment is the required means of engaging labour in publicly owned venues such as Melbourne and Olympic Parks, Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre and Arts Centre Melbourne among others;

•  Secondly, that should additional third party labour be required for a role that cannot be undertaken by an employee, that the contractor is engaged on the same industrial instrument applying to employees.

By adopting such arrangements, the Victorian government would make a real difference to the lives of our members and the Victorian service economy. Melbourne is a renowned sporting, arts, entertainment and racing capital – the nature of these industries are such that they have long been characterised by true casual labour – long before it became a mechanism to shift risk from the employer to the individual in other, clearly unsuited, parts of the economy.

It has been possible, at these sporting and arts venues, to have a good casual job – a shift at every event – and we have been able to negotiate conditions of employment that provide additional security for casuals, such as a longer minimum call times, shift cancellation penalties, casual conversion and the like –but this is increasingly being undermined by the creep of labour hire. I should also note that the majority of the members we represent work multiple jobs across city venues and the race clubs to cobble together an income.

Five years ago, Melbourne Park directly employed nearly every person the public was in contact with at the Australian Open and events throughout the year – security, cleaners, car par attendants, ushers, ticket and merchandise sellers – now security, cleaning and merch has been mostly outsourced and poorly trained agency staff are directing punters to their seats.

This is a false economy – it results in poorer service delivery, compromised safety standards and a manifestation of fear and stress among a workforce that previously had confidence in their ongoing employment. These workers make these cultural icons what they are.

We therefore seek that the inquiry adopt this recommendation in relation to direct engagement at publicly owned venues.

Finally, we seek that the inquiry note our submissions regarding increased regulation of performer agents to prevent the financial exploitation of vulnerable performers, extras and child performers who often rely on an agent to secure employment in the entertainment industry. We see no reason why there are laws protecting a performer from exploitation from their employer, but not from exploitation from their agent who is often so pertinent to their employment relationship.

We also support tighter regulation of labour hire providers and commend the VTHC for its efforts in collating over 600 worker stories that really detail the individual impact of insecure work.