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MEDIA RELEASE   A survey* of 300 casual, temporary visa and international student hospitality workers reveals a financial crisis unfolding and the heavy toll of Federal Government refusal to provide income support.

The survey reveals a shocking jobless rate among casual and migrant hospitality workers, with only 11% of participants in work, and less than 5% earning enough to meet the costs of rent and food.

Workers participating in the survey by Hospo Voice, the hospitality arm of United Workers Union, said they feel ‘desperate’, ‘unwelcome’ and ‘abandoned’ by the Federal Government despite contributing to our economy and society.

The workers were surviving during the coronavirus shutdown by drawing down savings, borrowing from friends and family, and deferring bills and rent. Participants reported not having any means to pay for rent and food, skipping meals, being unable to pay for medication and feeling abandoned after paying taxes.

Tim Kennedy, National Secretary of United Workers Union says, “The survey shows the crisis unfolding across our society for casual, temporary visa workers and international students. The real unemployment level for visa and casual workers in hospitality is sky high and far too many have no money to live on.

“JobKeeper was a promise from the Government that every worker counted, that we were all in this together. The harsh reality is that for far too many workers in this country, in sectors such as hospitality, is that we are not all in this together and for arbitrary reasons many of our fellow workers are being left to an uncertain future.

“No worker should be left behind and a national response can no longer be delayed, the Morrison government must step up and provide longer term assistance.”

Survey findings: Are you currently working?

No – 89%

Yes – 11%

Are you working enough hours to cover your expenses?

No – 95%

Yes – 5%

How are you paying for your rent, bills and groceries?

I’m using my savings – 53%

Other – 21%

Loans from family and friends – 15%

I’ve negotiated lower rent and/or deferred bills – 7%

I’ve received community support, e.g. food banks – 2%


Casual worker stories from survey

Like many in kitchens and hospo in general, I don’t stay in the same job for years on end. I move around, take opportunities to work with big names and learn new things as a way of growing my ability. That drive to learn led me straight off a cliff when the government shut down my industry. I had to ask my mum for money to cover my rent this month. I can’t eat unless I borrow money from my family. Do they realise how embarrassing it is to put people in that situation? How many tens of thousands I’ve paid in tax and I can’t even pay my rent and eat.

Jack, chef

As of this week I have spent what little savings I had. I am receiving Austudy but $600 a fortnight isn’t enough to cover my basic necessities. I can’t afford medication for my mental health issues.

Caitlin, waitress

Migrant worker stories from survey

I can’t afford uni fees because I lost more than half of my income. My first baby is due in 6 weeks. I always worked and pay my taxes and being cut from any sort of help from the government made me feel finishing my degree ASAP and leave this country. This will affect my visa, needed to have $5000 to apply for extension – don’t have this money.

Giovani, waiter & international student

I’m having to ration my food/skip meals to sustain myself as I don’t have any real savings.

Andrew, bartender on working holiday visa

I paid student visa, tuition fees, taxes. I feel a bit disappointed of this country. My saving will run out soon if I still don’t have a job.

Daphne, barista and international student

*303 casual, temporary visa workers and international students participated in the online Hospo Voice survey between 20 and 28 April 2020. Hospitality workers participating included chefs, managers, waiting staff, baristas, catering staff and kitchen hands.