NRG Gladstone Power Station.

Photo Mike Richards / The Observer
NRG Gladstone Power Station. Photo Mike Richards / The Observer Mike Richards GLA130215NRGP

Fair Work decision 'helpful to Gladstone': unions

THE CASUALISATION of Gladstone's workforce is is a major problem, according to the town's union representatives.

The Australia Workers' Union highlights workers' ongoing industrial dispute with NRG at Gladstone Power Station and the situation at Aurizon as examples of a long-term trend occurring in the region.

But central district organiser Zac Beers says a ruling from the Fair Work Commission this week is a step in the right direction.

The commission ruled long-term casual workers should be given the option to request permanent positions after 12 months.

Mr Beers said while it was not a solution that would fix all of the problems related to the issue, it was a good outcome for workers.

"Certainly from a union perspective we welcome this decision," he said.

"The issue with the ruling is it is a request to employers, it's not compulsory for them to say yes."

Mr Beers said the arrangement already existed in some industries.

"The issue that we see with the clause generally is that ... if the employee has been working for 12 months and requests to be converted, the employer has an obligation to respond to that request," he said.

"But it's on the basis that the employment relationship is to continue beyond that point.

"We often run into scenarios where employees make that request and employers say, 'Look, there's no permanent position available. If you want to keep working here, you can keep working as a casual or not at all.'"

Mr Beers said the issue was complex and the problem was trying to find a balance between employer flexibility and workers' rights.

"From a union perspective we have a very simple view about it: if workers have been engaged for a period of time, then they should be entitled to a permanent job," he said.