ITCRA supports contractors' bill

The Information Technology Contract and Recruitment Association (ITCRA) has expressed its support for a draft bill that it claims will see the protection of independent IT contractors in Australia.ITCRA executive director Norman Lacy said in a statement that the legislation is intended to "enshrine and protect the status of independent contractors" in order to ensure that the freedom to contract will be upheld and that there is certainty in commercial arrangements.

The Information Technology Contract and Recruitment Association (ITCRA) has expressed its support for a draft bill that it claims will see the protection of independent IT contractors in Australia.

ITCRA executive director Norman Lacy said in a statement that the legislation is intended to "enshrine and protect the status of independent contractors" in order to ensure that the freedom to contract will be upheld and that there is certainty in commercial arrangements.

Lacy said the government's policy document states that the legislation is designed to prevent situations where the intentions of the independent contractors are disregarded and overturned.

According to Lacy, the draft bill also aims to "prevent the industrial relations system from being used to undermine the status of independent contractors and prevent unions from seeking orders from the Australian Industrial Relations Commission which would impose limits, constraints or barriers on the freedom to contract, the freedom to operate as a genuine independent contractor, or the freedom to engage work through labour hire arrangements."

However, Sydney-based research software engineer and policy researcher, Tony Healy believes the bill is mainly designed to protect recruitment firms and not the contractors.

"There is a need to provide more governance. At the moment, recruitment firms are subjected to no guidelines and that needs to be changed. They should be transparent. Basically, this bill seeks to undermine the rights of individual contractors and we need the exact opposite of what this bill states. We need a bill that actually protects contractors and not the recruitment firms," Healy said.

Lacy emphasised that the draft bill implementation would mean that "independent contractors would not be regulated by employment law and industrial relations systems."

He added that the ITCRA received "encouraging" signs from the Minister of Employment Kevin Andrews and the government during their meeting last month.

"The ICA discussion paper seems to be leading the way on this issue and the material supplied to the government has been well received," Lacy said.

One of the key points made in the discussion paper, Lacy said, is the "discrimination against independent contractors which is often imposed by legislation and government policies".

"Discrimination often takes the form of denying independent contractors access to work opportunities. Sometimes, this occurs by default. Government procurement policies are normally written in the language of 'employment' as a matter of custom. The consequence is that independent contractors become excluded from government work because government policy requires 'employment'," he said.

According to Lacy, the proposed Independent Contractors Act would make it clear that discrimination against independent contractors on work and other matters is prohibited and that appropriate amendments to other relevant legislation to support this provision of the Act would be required.

However, Healy said that not many aspects of current government legislation and policies discriminate against contractors.

Healy also believes that ITCRA is not the right body to represent IT contractors since they also represent recruiters.

The discussion paper will be released this month with a bill expected to be introduced in the July session of parliament.