Bill Speech: Long Service Benefits Portability Bill 2018

Ms SPENCE (Yuroke) (16:27:12) — I am very pleased to add some brief comments on the Long Service Benefits Portability Bill 2018. This bill introduces portable long service leave for workers in the security, cleaning and community services sectors. I am thrilled that this legislation will make long service leave available to workers who have missed out on this important leave through no fault of their own. Employees in these sectors are often unable to continue working for a single employer long enough to qualify for long service leave due to the contract-based nature of the industries and a variety of short-term funding arrangements.

The intention of the scheme is to provide workers with an entitlement similar to that received by other workers under the Long Service Leave Act 1992. Under the new laws, workers will be entitled to long service leave after working for seven years in these industries, irrespective of the number of employers they work for over that time. Due to the nature of these industries, contract cleaning, security and community services workers often do the same job for well over the seven years legally required to accrue long service leave, but they do not receive it.

It was great to meet with United Voice representatives and delegates in February to get a briefing from them on the importance of portable long service leave to workers in the security and cleaning sectors. My comments in this brief contribution will largely focus on those sectors as I reflect upon that meeting. At that meeting I had the opportunity to chat with Ken, a cleaner at the Arts Centre Melbourne, and Bronco, a security guard, to discuss the Portable Leave for Life campaign being run by United Voice.

The stories of Ken and Bronco were not unique, and their experiences were far too common. They told me that 74 per cent of security guards and 61 per cent of cleaners miss out on long service leave. We spoke about how security guards work an average of 11.4 years in their industry, and cleaners even longer with an average service of 20 years, but due to contracting in these industries workers are prevented from accessing long service leave. Most security guards and cleaners will work at the same site for most of their careers — so they are not only doing the same job, but they are also at the same site — but they still face a possible change of employer when contracts change every three years. When they are employed by a new employer at contract change they lose their entitlement to long service leave.

Ken and Bronco also told me about the dangerous and unsafe work conditions that they face and how the nature of the work takes its toll on workers in these sectors. We talked about how cleaners and security guards are at high risk of injury and illness, so much so that insurance premiums in these industries are higher than for police and workers in psychiatric hospitals. Most cleaners and guards work shiftwork and long days. A day’s work can be up to 12 hours in these sectors. Shiftwork is associated with a greater risk of accidents and illness, including sleep disorders, mood disorders and cardiovascular disease. Long service leave provides an important break to rest and recover during a long career. It also provides something to look forward to. That was something that Ken and Bronco made very clear: knowing this break was to come would give them good relief and the will to continue.

We talked about how cleaners in Victoria previously had access to portable long service leave prior to 2010, as this was provided in the Building Services (Victoria) Award 2003. However, the entitlement was lost in the award modernisation process, which removed state-based differentials in working conditions, and the workers in this sector have been fighting for this leave ever since. It is also important to note that portable long service leave provisions do operate in other states, with schemes covering cleaners operating in Queensland and New South Wales and schemes covering cleaners and security guards operating in the ACT.

United Voice has been fighting for portable long service leave for security guards and cleaners for a very long time. I commend them on their efforts, I thank them for keeping us informed of this need and the importance of providing this well-deserved long service leave. It is well understood that long service leave is a benefit that all workers should enjoy as a reward for long and faithful service and to allow workers to take a break from their jobs and spend time with their families. However, as previously mentioned, many workers, through no fault of their own, are never able to enjoy long service leave because of the nature of the industry they work in.

This bill will address that anomaly for workers in the contract cleaning, security and community services sectors. It is estimated that 10 000 security guards and 20 000 cleaners would be eligible to access long service leave under the scheme. I am thrilled that this bill will assist so many deserving workers. I congratulate the minister on her work in this area, and I commend the bill to the house.