INDUSTRY and unions are gearing up for a fight over changes to overtime conditions for part-time workers proposed by attorney-general and industrial relations minister Christian Porter.

Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive James Pearson said between 50% and 60% of jobs lost during this pandemic were in the accommodation, food, arts and recreation industries.

“The JobKeeper flexibilities enabled employers to make changes around things like an employee’s work location or duties to match the realities of a massively disrupted trading environment,” Mr Pearson said.

“Similar flexibilities will help keep people connected to their employer and minimise further job losses in the face of near-term future economic uncertainty.”

Mr Pearson said part-time flexibilities would help lessen the reliance of employers on casual employment.

“The current part-time provisions in most awards are rigid and unnecessarily prescriptive and discourage employers from engaging people on a part-time basis instead of casual,” Mr Pearson said.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions responded by releasing information from a report showing more than half of casual workers probably did not receive the legal 25% loading in their pay.

ACTU secretary Sally McManus said the report showed that casualisation was a systemic issue in the Australian workforce.

“One in four Australian employees do not have any leave entitlements, leaving us lagging behind most other OECD countries. These are the workers who have carried us through the pandemic,” Ms McManus said.

“Casualised jobs with no access to paid leave was our weakest link in our efforts to stop the spread of COVID in our communities. We now need to turn that around, not make it worse.”

Ms McManus said the majority of casual workers were working the same hours every week, but without the entitlements that permanent workers could rely upon.

“They are being ripped off. The proposal from the Morrison Government will not only entrench this it will take rights off casual workers.”