End the uncertainty and anxiety about the future of JobKeeper.
That was the message from ACTU Secretary, Sally McManus, to Scott Morrison on ABC TV’s “Insiders” yesterday.
McManus told host David Speers that Australian workers were increasingly anxious as they faced falling through the economic trapdoor unless the Government maintained the union-led JobKeeper and JobSeeker programs beyond Scott Morrison’s March deadline to wind them up.
“This is a really important decision that the Government’s going to make, whether to keep JobKeeper or whether not to, and at the moment it is saying they’re not,” McManus said.
“So, if you’re in Melbourne at the moment, you’d be pretty worried about JobKeeper being removed. If you’re in North Queensland, where they were really smashed because they depend on international tourism, all of these businesses, as well as manufacturing, which is still being badly affected because of the coronavirus.
“What we say is, JobKeeper should be extended for those businesses that are still affected by the coronavirus through no fault of their own.
“We were a part of winning JobKeeper in the first place and we think it’s been one of the best decisions our country’s made in terms of stopping the unemployment queues and keeping people connected to work.”
The ACTU Secretary backed Labor’s plan to deal with the exploitation of insecure workers by providing them with portable entitlements, such as holiday and sick pay, as well as ensuring they are paid the minimum wage.
McManus outlined how the Australian economy had become dangerously dependent on an insecure workforce to keep the economy ticking over.
“The number of casual workers is about 25% of the of the economy but that’s not all there is – there’s gig economy workers, there’s labor hire, there’s people on fixed term contracts, so you’ve got to add those people into it,” explained McManus.
“There are also situations where people might be in part time work, but employers will flex their hours up and down every single week.
“Anything our governments can do to make jobs, more secure, is a very good thing for our country.”
The exploitation of gig economy workers, particularly those working for big tech companies, was something that needed to be addressed urgently according to McManus.
“Gig economy workers at the moment have less rights than workers in Australia did 100 years ago,” she told “Insiders”.
“So, under what Labor’s announced they would get all the basic rights of other workers so minimum wage sick pay if they’re working regular hours the right to bargain.
“It’s really important that it’s done this way and that’s because these big tech companies like Uber around the world have been fighting governments and unions where we’ve been trying to get rights for people.
“There has to be a way of ensuring that doesn’t happen.”
The ACTU Secretary reinforced the point that a further reduction in disposable income and increased levels of job insecurity for working people amidst the COVID-19 pandemic would be a hammer blow for the economy.
“It’s actually positive for business when people have certainty in their jobs, when they have that job security, they’re more likely to spend, and the thing is about the coronavirus recovery, it’s got to be a grassroots recovery.
“You’ve got to look after the grassroots, that’s working people.
“If we go on about doing what the Government’s proposing, and that’s to reduce wages, that’s to make jobs more insecure, we’ll spend less.
“That’s not going to be good for the economic recovery.”