The Australian Council of Trade Unions, the peak body for working people in Australia, has broadly welcomed the Morrison Government’s acknowledgement of the pressures being faced by casual and contract workers and workers stood down without pay but has expressed concerns about the lack of guarantee that businesses keep people in jobs and use tax withheld for wages.
Doubling the Jobseeker allowance by providing a coronavirus allowance and waiving both the waiting period and asset tests will provide some support for casuals and contractors that are impacted by coronavirus but there is a need for further wage subsidies to mitigate the economic damage.
Opening access to the $750 one-off payments to pensioners, carers, seniors card holders is a welcome recognition that they will have extra costs and needs during this pandemic. Making the $550 a fortnight payments available to casuals and contractors who have lost significant amount work is also acknowledgement that people in insecure work are highly vulnerable during this crisis. However, the priority must be keeping people in work and paid.
The package makes no mention of the 1.4 million visa workers who currently have no access to any social safety net and the union movement is seeking clarification from the government to ensure they are protected at this time.
The Australian Union movement is concerned that any changes to superannuation cannot put at risk people’s retirement savings and do not unfairly impact the lowest paid.
Quotes attributable to ACTU President Michele O’Neil:
“It is important that the government now recognises casuals and gig workers need support.
“Getting money into the pockets of working people is vital, not just to keeping the economy going but also, to ensure people take the steps they need to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Today’s announcements will help some casuals and contractors who have already lost work, lost income and are already struggling.
“Keeping people in work, while they are able to self isolate, is vital and we welcome the government’s attempts in this package but urge them to quickly go further. We need the assurance of guaranteed wage subsidies to keep people in work and wages paid. Support to SMEs must be conditional on job and wages guarantees.
“We have long argued that Newstart was too low and today’s announcements about the new Jobseeker payment and the coronavirus allowance shows that real financial support for vulnerable people is in the interest of all Australians and our economy.
“There are already hardship provisions for early access to superannuation for those in genuine need. We urge the government to step in and provide real wage subsidy support so people are not putting their retirement at risk.
“The gaps in this second package highlight the need for another urgent package that will deliver real wage subsidies to keep people in jobs and a plan for how we will rebuild when the crisis is over.”