27 November 2020

One of the Federal Coalition Government’s most recent initiatives is a hiring credit for employers who take on under 35’s who were previously in receipt of a Centrelink benefit. On the surface the program, dubbed JobMaker, appears to be a reasonable plan, but like so many things, the devil is in the detail.

There’s no requirement for jobs attracting the hiring credit, worth around $10,000 a year, to be secure or ongoing. Additionally, the credit is only available to subsidise the employee’s earnings for 12 months.

Perversely, this would incentivise the casualisation of work and leave young workers vulnerable to insecurity and unfair dismissal, to say nothing of the fact that workers aged 35 and over are entirely excluded from the program.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), there were just over 2.6 million casual workers before the pandemic hit. That’s just under a quarter of all workers nationally.

Casual workers are more likely to be young and more likely to be women. They work in retail, trade, accommodation and food services, construction, health, education and transport—industries that are absolutely crucial to our economic recovery. About one million casuals have been with their employer for less than 12 months.

Unfortunately, the JobMaker hiring credit legislation has left them unprotected from unfair dismissal and vulnerable to having their hours reduced or being let go. These workers were excluded from the JobKeeper program and are now being excluded from the basic entitlements that other workers in this country get to enjoy.

This Coalition Government has exposed one million workers to the risk of being sacked without recourse in the middle of Australia’s deepest recession, at a time when there are more than 100 people applying for every one job.

It doesn’t have to be this way. All it would take for the Government to protect a million of Australia’s most vulnerable workers is a relatively simple amendment to legislation.

Casual workers deserve better. They deserve the respect of this National and Liberal Government.

If the Government was fair dinkum, if they truly respected workers, they would support them as they so often claim they do. They would include them in basic unfair dismissal protections.

Let’s protect these workers. Let’s protect all workers in this country and help them make their contribution to our community.

We all want to see our economy rebuild and rebound after what has been a pretty unbelievable 12 months. Instead, casual workers are again being left behind by the Coalition Government.

This op ed was originally published by the Ararat Advocate and the Pyrenees Advocate.