The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) has heightened its calls for the Morrison government to extend the existing JobKeeper and JobSeeker schemes beyond their respective September expiry dates, and also criticized the planned application of the new JobTrainer scheme as the national unemployment rate has risen to 7.4 per cent.
The ACTU fears that many of the three million people currently receiving JobKeeper payments risk falling into the ranks of the unemployed if the government fails to extend the scheme in ten weeks’ time.
“No one wants to see more people fall through the gaps which is why we need to extend JobKeeper and deliver a comprehensive plan for a jobs-led reconstruction,” Michele O’Neil, the ACTU’s president, said on Thursday.
“People need reassurance that Australia isn’t going over an economic cliff,” added O’Neil, “so the sooner the Government tells people the plan, the better for everyone.”
Citing monthly figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), the national unemployment rate rose 0.4 per cent to 7.4 per cent for the month of June. However, the ACTU also acknowledges the belief of Josh Frydenberg, as the federal treasurer thinks the “real” unemployment figure – to encompass those who have lost faith in the pandemic-related job market – may be closer to 13 percent.
“We have 13 times more unemployed people than jobs available, and record rates of young people [are] either out of work or needing more hours,” said O’Neil, in pointing out the challenges and inadequacies alike by the Morrison government to combat unemployment figures that have climbed since the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting national recession started.
Another one of those inadequacies, according to the ACTU, lies in the new JobTrainer scheme as announced on Thursday morning by Michaelia Cash, the jobs minister for the Morrison government.
“Our nation has faced many challenges, and it is critical that we keep our apprentices in jobs and help those looking for work,” Cash said in unveiling the government’s new $2 billion employment investment package.
“This package will be essential as the economy rebuilds so that people looking for work can reskill and upskill for in-demand jobs, provide school leavers with a pathway into their careers, and ensure businesses are able to get the skilled workers they need,” Cash added.
However, O’Neil counters the government’s newest scheme, pointing out that while it represents “a good start” by returning two-thirds of the funding cut from training programs during the Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison LNP regimes, the direction of JobTrainer could be better applied through the TAFE institutes rather than through private providers.
“The JobTrainer plan restores some of the money in the training sector but it needs to be targeted to TAFE, which we know works, not handed over to the privatized sector which we know is full of dodgy providers,” said O’Neil.
Not only does the JobTrainer scheme – as another one of its shortcomings – expire in March of next year, but it also recalls another heavily-critiqued job-creation plan on Morrison’s watch, when he was the nation’s treasurer in 2016.
The Youth Jobs PaTH program, not only criticized as instituting its sham-like $4/hour “internship” scheme that never created a single job beyond an initial interval to young workers, was also seen to be run to benefit private Job Network providers.
“People need a real pathway that builds on skill development into real work so expanding the program to include new apprentices and making sure there are government projects with mandated minimum numbers of trainees and apprentices is what we need to see now,” said O’Neil in the ACTU’s constructive criticism of the JobTrainer program.
Also, on Tuesday, O’Neil and the ACTU also implored the Morrison government to extend the JobSeeker program not just for the benefit of the unemployed persons who receive it, but to help stimulate the economy out of recession as well.
Citing the overall health, safety and well-being of those receiving the $1138 per fortnight JobSeeker scheme since it was introduced on March 30, O’Neil insists that cutting the rate back to old NewStart-alone levels of $40 per day would have catastrophic effects on the nation’s unemployed.
“JobSeeker isn’t just important during the pandemic – it is essential that people looking for work have time and security to find a job,” said O’Neil.
“We need to understand the impact of this virus and part of that is ensuring that no one falls into poverty when they lose their job. Any move to cut the rate will be opposed,” O’Neil added.
In advising the Morrison government to extend the JobSeeker and JobKeeper programs beyond September and suggesting that the new JobTrainer scheme should be run through the TAFE systems, O’Neil and the ACTU – in the last few days alone – are further enhancing their reputation as an organization that remains on the side of working people and the unemployed alike.
Also by William Olson:
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