No access to paid sick leave and insecure working conditions are putting Australians at greater risk of COVID-19 infection, according to a submission by epidemiologists from ANU in response to the Morrison Government’s proposed IR Omnibus Bill.
The ANU public health experts warned that by promoting insecure work, the Omnibus Bill will create an immediate and severe health threat to the Australian people.
“The proposed Act as it stands poses a threat to the gains made in protecting essential workers by encouraging a shift to even further casualization, lower pay and insecure conditions for these workers,” the experts said in their submission.
“Broadly speaking, casual workers are twice affected by the pandemic, due to the absence of leave entitlements, and by being among the lowest paid and insecure workers.”
In their submission, the health experts detailed how the pandemic has exposed inequalities within our labour system, placing historically and socially disadvantaged workers at the highest risk of infection and transmission of COVID-19, including:
- Essential low-paid, casual workers, such as health care workers, personal care attendants, cleaners, security guards, abattoir workers, delivery workers, supermarket staff, transport workers and childcare staff.
- Women, people of colour, temporary visa holders and migrants and individuals from low-socioeconomic and culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
The epidemiologists point to the Victorian COVID-19 outbreaks as a clear link between insecure work and higher health risks, explaining that the data shows, “industries and occupations with high rates of initiating outbreaks, and numbers and size of outbreaks, are also those with the highest rates of casualization.”
The ANU submission has been welcomed by the ACTU, with President Michele O’Neil saying it echoes the Australian union movement’s concerns.
“We’ve said this from the very beginning of this pandemic: workers need to know they can get tested and isolate at home as required, while still being able to put food on the table for their families”, Ms O’Neil said.
“Rather than building a stronger, more resilient economy through the recovery, this Bill would make work more insecure and make workers and our whole community more vulnerable to future crises.
“The Morrison Government should be doing everything possible to keep Australians safe. Instead, they want to cut pay and rights for working people and create a weaker economy.”
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