SYDNEY, Australia – Casual workers received a massive blow after confirmation that Australians who are in employment in less than a year may not get the $1,500 JobKeeper payment as part the country’s coronavirus stimulus package.
Late last month, the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison declared the new wage subsidy for employees worth $130 billion. The grant aims to help keep small businesses afloat, and all workers in their jobs as the health crisis due to coronavirus continue.
Under the JobKeeper payment scheme, all eligible employees are looking towards receiving a wage subsidy worth $1,500 every fortnight for six months.
Initially, the government announced that the payment system would include both part-time and full-time employees, including casual workers and sole traders, who have been on the job for more than a year. However, there are now concerns that some groups wouldn’t be eligible to receive the cash package.
The backlash due to the loopholes in the JobKeeper payment system started coming out. It was primarily because of the fine print that is eliminating over 1.1 million casuals in Australia who has been on their employment for less than a year. With this, the union frontrunners are now calling for the Australian government to lighten and modify the rules. They hope to cover all workers affected by the health crisis.
Based on reports, Christian Porter, the Industrial Relations Minister, specified that he is open to working alongside the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) to help change and modify the casual worker’s eligibility for the cash subsidy.
Meanwhile, ACTU has been pushing forward to get eligibility for casual workers to get the payments, especially if they have ongoing work expectation if only it is not because of the spreading coronavirus.
However, hopes for casuals getting $1,500 cash subsidy is a thing of the past after what Mr Porter said in an interview. According to him, the original rules and requirements for the JobKeeper payment system will remain in place. It means that all workers under their employment for less than 12 months will not get the payments.
The casual workers identified in the rules are those attached to the same employer for a minimum of one year.
Mr Porter said that for a payment system that represents massive expenditure like the payment system, there must be any guiding limits. For this, they will continue with the previous rules and require a minimum of 12 months systematic attachment toa single employer.
Under the Fair Work Act, the Australian government would like to stick on the standard “casual worker’ definition.
In another interview, Mr Porter explained further about the decision not to lighten the existing rules for the payment system. He said that they decided to take the principle of what most consider as a casual worker from the Fair Work Act, at least for this payment scheme.
Mr Porter noted that it is a sensible code, so they decided to stick with it for this scheme.
With his previous statements of helping lighten the requirements for the scheme, Mr Porter didn’t go off without some more questions about the recent decision. In a press conference, he answered the question about the previous indication that casual workers may have some flexibility in terms of payment eligibility.
For this, Mr Porter said that casual employees who have regular employment for more than one year (but for more than one employer) would not be eligible for the payment scheme. He repeated that with the extraordinary-sized expenditure they are dealing with, there must be some lines drawn. Noting, they will stick with the definition of what counts as a casual worker.
He explained that it is a reasonable and fair line that they are taking. Mr Porter said that with any changes in the eligibility for the payment scheme, there has to be a balance between casuals getting the $1,500 worth of wage subsidy from employers versus those who will seek for the payment subsidy but still can continue with their employment.
Mr Porter noted that as the Australian government preventing any issue that could put the country’s economy in a complete downturn, they have to draw some lines.
He added that he would confirm the matter in two days, but the definition and principle for the payment scheme will remain for casuals working for 12 months under the same employer.
Mr Porter also noted that the exclusion made in the scheme is not mainly because of the cost. However, it aims to ensure that the long-term connection between workers and their employers will continue in the period of the wage subsidy.
The apparent about-face in the eligibility for casuals sparked outrage. People are taking their anger on social media, proceeding with calling the government to make sure that all Australian workers will benefit from the subsidy during this health crisis.
Meanwhile, Tony Burke, the Shadow Minister for Industrial Relations, slammed the backtrack, saying that he will continue to push through with the efforts to help casual workers. He stated that they want to include the casuals for the wage subsidy as well, and they are trying to fight for that.
Mr Burke noted that the government offered hope for over a million of casuals in Australia previously. However, they turned about-face, which is now putting causal workers in more turmoil as they’ve hoped to get some relief from this income subsidy.
Meanwhile, charity workers are getting good news for this payment scheme. Previously, the project restricted eligibility for employers with revenue of less than $1 billion per year and experienced at least a 30% decline in revenue due to the health crisis.
Employers with over a billion of annual revenue would have to go through a 50% drop to be eligible. However, Treasurer John Frydenberg recently confirmed that there had been a massive reduction on the limit to include charities and not-for-profit organizations that experienced at least a 15% drop in annual revenue.
He also announced the decision much later on social media. The reduced threshold is what they consider as the substantial drop for not-for-profits during the health crisis and the spread of coronavirus.
All these, however, are not final, and still waits for the voting on the Parliament scheduled on Wednesday.