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Wednesday, April 14, 2021

26,000 ACT casual workers not eligible for wage subsidy

Analysis by the ACTU and UnionsACT has shown as many as 26,000 casual workers and migrant workers in Canberra are ineligible for the Federal Government’s JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme.

A survey of 1,000 ACT workers conducted as part of the analysis showed a fifth of surveyed workers had lost their job, while another fifth had lost income or work shifts.

The ACT has approximately 48,000 casual workers, with that figure excluding informal, cash-in-hand, contractors, labour hire or temp workers.

The Federal Government’s JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme excludes casual workers not continuously employed for more than 12 months, and all migrant workers excluding New Zealand citizens.

The subsidy provides $750 per week to employers as a subsidy for wages paid to workers. The average weekly lost income due to the coronavirus crisis is $884 per week.

Secretary of UnionsACT, Alex White, said casual and migrant workers have been forgotten by the Federal Government.

“There are 26,000 workers in the ACT whose jobs and income should be protected by the wages subsidy but aren’t.

“Migrant workers in particular do not qualify for social security, so face potential destitution and homelessness if they lose their job due to coronavirus.

“What’s more, thousands of casuals in the hardest hit industries – hospitality and retail – are not eligible for a wages subsidy, either because they don’t have 12 months continuous employment, or because their employer broke the law by paying them ‘off the books’,” she said.

21,000 university jobs at risk nationally

The ACTU and UnionsACT analysis showed the bulk of job losses, stand-downs and reduction of shifts for workers are concentrated in the hospitality, retail and education/training sectors.

Universities Australia Chief Executive Catriona Jackson said a conservative estimate of the revenue decline that will hit the sector is between $3-$4.6 billion, while they brace to lose as many as 21,000 jobs nationally in the next six months.

The sector supported a total of 259,100 full-time jobs and contributed $41 billion to the Australian economy in 2018.

On 5 April, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announced that charities registered with the national regulator will be eligible for JobKeeper if they have suffered a 15% decline in turnover as a result of the coronavirus.

It was then later clarified that universities weren’t eligible for the 15% threshold, despite all of Australia’s 37 public universities being formally registered with the Australian Charities and Not-For-Profits Commission.

Ms Jackson said the sector is disappointed to have been excluded from the 15% charity threshold for the federal wage subsidy scheme.

“As not-for-profit charities, we welcomed the Treasurer’s announcement about amendments to JobKeeper that would have seen most universities included. It would have backed our ability to reduce job losses,” she said.

Ms Jackson said they will continue to discuss support for universities with government.

“Now it is clear that there will be a significant decline in second semester international student enrolments due to the virus.

“We are also asking government to maintain funding levels for home-grown students, even if enrolment levels drop for a short time.

“It is crucial universities remain viable today so they are able maximise their contribution to Australia’s economic recovery tomorrow,” Ms Jackson said.

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