A return to austerity and another dose of trickledown economics is not the way to thank Australian workers for the sacrifices they’ve made during the COVID-19 pandemic.
That will be one of the themes of Michele O’Neil’s speech to the National Press Club in Canberra on Tuesday.
The ACTU President spoke with On the Job ahead of her address and reinforced how important it is to ensure the Morrison government doesn’t revert to its usual playbook of making ordinary Australians carry the burden alone throughout the economic recovery.
“What’s really important about this budget is that it recognises that for our recovery to be real and long lasting, it needs to be a fair recovery, it needs to be a recovery for all,” O’Neil said.
“What we’ve seen so far is that the fact that Australia has come through with our health and economy much stronger than people predicted, it is because we had a grassroots community response.
“It’s the same grassroots response that is required for the economy.”
The implementation of the union led JobKeeper and JobSeeker programs kept the engine room of domestic spending ticking over throughout the dark days of 2020. With the Morrison government calling time on both these programs, that economic momentum is threatened.
O’Neil is adamant that any sustained economic recovery plan needs to offer more than just a hope that this can continue to be a cash register led recovery.
“Our economy is in good shape at the moment because people have been spending, but that’s not a pathway to a lasting recovery.
“The Government needs to lead, and it needs to take action. That is going to ensure that wages rise, because the fact that we’ve now had the lowest wage growth on record for eight years is causing long term damage to our economy.”
Real, meaningful, structural change to tackle economic gender inequality and disadvantage will also be a focus of the ACTU President’s address.
“One of the other things that we’re going to be talking about in this speech is that addressing gender equality is not just good for women, it’s good for everyone and it’s good for the economy,” O’Neil said.
“Addressing things like making sure that we increase paid parental leave, that we end the gender pay gap, that we are supporting the sectors where women work that are undervalued such as aged care and early childhood education and care.
“These are fundamental to a fairer, better economy not only for women but the entire community.”
Michele O’Neil will also put the case that the Government’s continued opposition to a wage growth and its lack of leadership in providing a wage boost for public sector workers is counter-productive when it comes to kick starting the economy.
“The Government can do a lot to stimulate wage growth. It’s in control of what it pays people who work for it. It could lift public sector wage caps and give those workers a fair wage increase.
“Instead of supporting the ACTU’s call for a 3 and a half percent rise in the minimum wage, the Government has gone back to its old ways of never supporting the need for a wage increase. They never support the need for a wage increase when times are good, they never support a wage increase when times are tough.”
With wage growth stagnant, and hundreds of thousands of Australian workers locked into insecure work and still struggling to make ends meet, the ACTU President will outline to the National Press Club her vision for a more inclusive economy that will benefit all Australians.
“What we know about the growth in jobs that has happened recently, is that the majority of those jobs are casual jobs and part-time jobs with people wanting more hours. “There’s a huge problem in our labour market and in our economy that we are not creating secure quality jobs workers and their families can rely on.”