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Marginalised workers short-changed in JobKeeper revamp, says ACTU

By William Olson  

The Morrison government responded to public pressure on Friday to expand the JobKeeper payment scheme to a greater volume of workers, as well as extending the program’s expiry date to March 2021 – although the payment rate is being reduced and a lower payment rate is being introduced for those working a limited number of hours, as previously announced by federal treasurer Josh Frydenberg.

However, Sally McManus, the Australian Council of Trade Unions’ (ACTU) national secretary, points out for as well-intentioned the government’s revision of the much-maligned scheme is, those revisions do not extend far enough.

According to McManus on behalf of the ACTU, only relatively small percentages of casual workers and those on visas are included in the changes – leaving most workers from those categories with no change in status from when JobKeeper was unveiled in late March.

And moreover, McManus has taken society-over-economy and no-worker-left-behind approaches towards the likely impact of those changes, with the objective remaining to slow and stop the spread of the coronavirus.

“The outbreak in Victoria has shown us again that insecure workers are the most vulnerable during this crisis, and need to be supported so that they can protect themselves and the community,” McManus said on Friday.

An examination of the casual workforce statistics reveals that the long-term casuals coming into the fold on the JobKeeper revision confirms the ACTU’s claim that a significant amount of the casual workforce remains excluded from the scheme.

Two million workers are currently classified as casuals, as attributed by the ACTU, while the federal government claims that overall, roughly one worker in every four is classified as a casual worker.

That latter study also cites that among the casual workforce – in a case where this group could, in the context of the JobKeeper expansion, become poisoned by its own chalice – one million of those workers had been with their employers for 12 months or less, and that the demographic of 15-to-24-year-olds are more likely to be members of the casual workforce.

Within that demographic, 26.4 per cent of those had been with their current employer for 12 months or less, while 46 per cent of all casual workers exist as being of the short-term variety.

As for the Special Category Visa subclass 444 visa holders, the Department of Home Affairs defines that class of visa holder as one who is permitted to “to visit, study, stay and work [in Australia] as long as [one] remains a New Zealand citizen” merely by presenting a valid New Zealand passport and an incoming passenger card upon entry into Australia – thereby making quite limited in scope as to who can qualify for the JobKeeper scheme under visa provisions as a whole.

While the subclass 444 visa holders constitute the largest group of Australian temporary residents via a 2019 study by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), the impact of those working and holding the Temporary Skill Shortage (subclass 482) – which replaced the old subclass 457 visa in 2018 – cannot be underestimated as those workers face uncertain futures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, unemployment, underemployment, visa expiry, deportation, and other factors having a domino effect.

These analyses thereby justifies the ACTU’s position that the revision of the JobKeeper scheme isn’t ranging far enough – and the body which governs unions in Australia remains resolute to push for these benefits to all workers, whether they are union members or not.

“People on work visas have been excluded from JobSeeker and JobKeeper. They have nothing, so they are desperate for work,” McManus said.

“This makes it more likely they will be working, some while sick, in our essential services like meat processing and aged care,” she added.

McManus also stated that the JobKeeper scheme only exists as one such piece of a puzzle to accommodate casuals, visa holders, and any workers previously left behind, pointing to a continued push for a national paid pandemic leave program to be installed alongside another revision to JobKeeper.

“We need to expand JobKeeper to casuals and visa workers, and make federally-funded paid pandemic leave available to all working people,” said McManus.

But above all else, McManus and the ACTU point towards the human impact emanating from the shortcomings of the Morrison government’s revisions of the JobKeeper scheme, no matter how well-intentioned they are.

And they are concerned with the actions of human nature and basic sociology connected in the age of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the workforce around it.

“If we do not treat all workers equally, some will be more desperate and take more risks. This will only create opportunities for the virus to spread,” said McManus.

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6 comments

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  1. MrFlibble4747

    Yet another version of a cynical political solution which does not address the real problem and will result in ongoing suffering and death for the poor/disadvantaged/exploited people of Australia who he clearly does not give a crap about.

    The LIBs/NATs clearly are heading for “Snap Back” and will NEVER “Snap Out of It” the economy is King,

    Society does not exist for them!

    An ongoing absolute disgrace and quite possibly ongoing crimes against humanity!

    Will someone take this to the international courts?

  2. New England Cocky

    The COALition response to COVID-19 has clearly demonstrated that Scummo Sacked from Marketing has absolutely no care or concern about the plight of Australian voters suffering because his Liarbral nazional$ misgovernment preferred to pour BILLIONS into the coffers of corporations and small business bosses rather than protect the health and well-being of our many working Australian voters.

    It seems ideological reasons were the cause of ignoring the very successful response strategy from, the Rudd Henry response to the 2009 GFC; ”Go early, go hard, go families”

    Australian voters must remember this callous disinterest and disrespect in 2022 when the next Federal elections are held? Or will Il Dunce Scummo go for a Reichstag response and close Parliament to continbue the fascist dictatorship?

  3. ajogrady

    Who would have thought that John Howard’s Workchoice apprentices would be so dismisive and arrogant towards insecure and poorly paid workers.

  4. Ill fares the land

    One key principle of economics is that when we choose to do one thing, we, at the same time, choose not to do something else. Perhaps this is not like choosing a small cappuccino over a medium cappuccino – remembering that when we choose the small, we choose not to have the medium, but these JobKeeper choices tell us a great deal about what the LNP and President Morrison in particular is thinking and about his ideological obsessions. These are completely ignored by the Murdoch media, Sky and 2GB, but they are now emerging and it is easy to see the sort of Australia President, or King Morrison (I think with his now massively over-inflated ego, he vacillates between those options, but rule by executive decree is his ambition), wants to create.

    With JobKeeper 1.0, it was possible to argue, not forcefully, but possible, that a hurriedly put together scheme overlooked certain groups inadvertently (although the belligerence and nastiness that was applied to prevent universities – other than Bond Uni – from accessing JobKeeper perhaps pointed to a deeper loathing of academia buried within Morrison). That many of those same groups are excluded from version 2.0 is a choice.

  5. Phil Pryor

    The rotten, anti-social, regressive policies of conservative political perverts is propagandised, promoted, praised by foreign filthy fantasist fools scribbling for Murdoch, a yankee wankee slut for money, control, power at any cost to others. Insecure work has taken over from better planned and happier social and commercial ways of old. Cheapshit bosses with cheapshit attitudes make for a cheapshit nation that should not have been stripped, raided, pillaged for profiteering pillocks of corporate poop, where the bottom line, share prices, cheap image, allows the incrowd to rig rewards, contracts, bonuses, earnings, fringe benefits, status. Huns abd Whores lead us…and the push off course into economics savagery is foreign corporation led, in mining, media, money. What reeking shit. Keen to survive if not prosper, many defy sense in these emergency times as they MUST try to survive, working and moving as they have needs and must turn up, with no security, poor training, robbery trimmed pay, dogshit conditions. Advance, Australia?? And, that obnoxious ignorant idiot treasurer mouths whinges against Victoria’s government in the face of all this in old people’s homes, a federal sphere. If Frydenberg is a decent human, then pigs shit sugar and lies are holy writ.

  6. Brozza

    Phil – pigs will never shit sugar and holy writ is just a concoction of the brainwashed.

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