Job Keeper criticised for excluding casual workers

A “line had to be drawn” Treasurer says after Labor fails to amend Job Keeper wage subsidy, excluding millions of casual workers from the scheme.

21 April 2020

The $130 billion Job Keeper wage subsidy has been criticised for excluding around 1.1 million casual workers who have lost work due to COVID-19.

The Treasury estimates around 6 million workers will receive a fortnightly payment of $1,500 through their employer.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said a “line had to be drawn” somewhere by the Government after failed to amend the legislation “Labor’s motion to amend the legislation failed to win support to include casual workers that had been employed for less than 12 months

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese expressed concern that Australians should have to dip into their superannuation savings at a time when superannuation balances are relatively low because of the decline on stockmarkets.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the Job Keeper payment would bring the Government’s total economic support for the economy to $320 billion or 16.4 per cent of GDP.

“We will give millions of eligible businesses and their workers a lifeline to not only get through this crisis, but bounce back together on the other side,” Morrison said. 

But the Job Keeper has come under fire on twitter from experts for the wage subsidy leaving so many workers without an income.

Economist at ACTU Damian Kyloh tweeted a graph showing the numbers of casual workers employed less than 12 months who will be excluded from the Job Keeper, the hardest hit industry, hospitality, having 229,800 excluded workers alone.

The Australia Institute found 81 percent of Australians “overwhelmingly support” extending the wage subsidy to casual workers, regardless of length of employment, while only 11 percent are opposed.

And strong support for extending Job Keeper to casual workers regardless of length of employment was seen across voters of all parties.

Jim Stanford, director of the Australia Institute’s Centre for Future Work said the findings demonstrated that the Australian public wants to see the program include the casual workers who are currently excluded.

“Short-tenure casual workers are among some of the most vulnerable in our society. Many are living paycheck to paycheck, and already living on the brink – they need more support during this crisis, not less,” Stanford said in a press release.

Concerns have been raised over businesses rorting the job keeper, even after assurances that the ATO would harshly penalise offending businesses. Rebekha Sharkie Federal MP tweeted that employers could exploit employees through the scheme.

Further criticism of employment legislation was levelled at the government as union representatives call amendments to the Fair Work Act “anti-worker”.

Secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions Sally McManus criticised changes to enterprise agreements giving employers the ability to give only 24 hours’ notice before having a vote to change workers enterprise agreement’s calling it a “terrible decision”.

“This decision was driven by the interests of big business who have been lobbying the government on this for weeks and weeks and weeks. It’s unnecessary and it’s unfair. We know many employers will go about exploiting this law to try and pursue wage cuts and cuts to conditions,” she said on twitter.

“There are far too many employers right now abusing things like Job Keeper, and as we know with wage theft, they will get away with it if they can”.

The Fair Work Commission says employers are pursuing urgent relaxation to workplace conditions in 17 different industry awards, with priority given to retail and fast-food sectors.

The Job Keeper legislation was introduced to parliament at the same time as the Fair Work Commission approved two weeks’ unpaid pandemic leave and new rights to take double annual leave at half pay for millions of workers on 99 awards.

The treasury says it will be up to the employer if they want to pay superannuation on any additional wage paid because of the Job Keeper Payment.

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