Published: 28/06/2021
Category: On The Job
Published: 28/06/2021
Category: On The Job

It has been a restless night for hundreds of thousands of Sydney residents as they enter day two of a two-week lockdown and brace themselves for a possible surge in COVID-19 case numbers.

For so many workers whose income is predicated on casual or part time work without any entitlements like sick pay, holiday pay or family leave, their plans to pay next week’s grocery bill or fill their car with fuel have been totally junked.

Last year, Australian Unions and their allies campaigned for and won JobKeeper and JobSeeker payments that helped workers through the greatest economic crisis in our lifetime.

This time around, that assistance is nowhere to be seen.

Welcome to Scott Morrison’s trap door economy – a world where the comfortable and well-off are serviced by an army of workers who grapevine from pay check to pay check in casual shifts and the gig economy.

With no safety net in place, workers can feel their economic stability creaking under their feet – the trap door ready to spring open and plunge them into financial distress at any moment.

In response, ACTU Secretary Sally McManus has called for the immediate reinstatement of JobKeeper.

“The Federal Government’s emergency Covid payments are grossly insufficient. They make it look like the Morrison Government is helping, when in reality these payments are below the poverty line, inaccessible during one week lockdowns and don’t give workers job security.

ACTU Secretary Sally McManus is calling for an immediate reinstatement of JobKeeper (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

“The Morrison Government must bring in JobKeeper 2 and give workers and businesses security not just to survive, but to keep the economic recovery rolling,” McManus said.

As this column outlined last week, the Morrison Government’s self-congratulations about Australia’s unemployment rate is, like so much this administration does, a triumph of spin over substance.

With over 30 per cent of the economy now in insecure work and just as many wanting more hours than they regularly get, underemployment is a chronic condition that has riddled the Australian working experience and there is no sign whatsoever that this Government has any inclination to address it.

Right now, in Sydney and surrounds, underemployment has suddenly become unemployment as the wheels of the economy grind to a halt in order to deal with what looks like an outbreak of infections that could spiral out of control if a lockdown weren’t in place.

For Gladys Berejiklian and Scott Morrison, this crisis comes as a sharp jab to the chin after strutting around on a hometown victory lap for the last year, crowing about New South Wales’ “gold standard” when it comes to avoiding the type of lockdown that sensible health officials in other states have undertaken as a necessary public health measure.

Hubris is the default setting for both of these Liberal leaders, and it is going to be ordinary workers who are about to pay the price for their folly.

Australians are right to be bewildered and angry at the disjointed, shoddy and painfully slow roll out of a national vaccine strategy that has, at the time of writing, fully vaccinated just 4.7% of the population.

You read that right. Not 47%. 4.7%.

It leaves Australia below the Palestinian Territories (6.3%), COVID ravaged Argentina (8.6%), and war-torn Azerbaijan (11.8%) in the race to vaccinate its population.

As the Prime Minster clung to his cliché du jour that our vaccination roll-out was ‘not a race’, millions of Australians watched their work vanish and their lives being disrupted yet again by continuing COVID outbreaks.

It is a race and its one we are clearly losing.

Sally McManus is not letting Scott Morrison off the hook. The lack of a truly national and engaged emergency vaccine program is at the heart of the economic distress so many workers are feeling today as they face weeks without work and any form of income.

“This lockdown is the direct result of the Morrison Government’s inability to secure enough vaccines and manage the vaccine rollout. With only five per cent of the population fully vaccinated we are dead last for the vaccine rollout in the OECD.

“With such a slow vaccine rollout and no quarantine facilities yet built, we can expect lockdowns to happen again – and whilst big business may survive lockdowns, small businesses and workers will not. The Government must put JobKeeper 2 in place to keep workers attached to their jobs and keep the economic recovery going.”

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Liberal victory lap over as workers’ pay the price for lockdown

Liberal victory lap over as workers’ pay the price for lockdown