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MEDIA RELEASE Seven in ten surveyed hospitality workers report they won’t be getting JobKeeper. The workers are either ineligible from the Morrison Government’s Covid-19 scheme, or their employers have decided to not apply, or they report their employers have used it as an excuse to sack them.

The online survey of 550 hospitality workers* by the United Workers Union hospitality arm Hospo Voice raises serious issues with the implementation of JobKeeper in the hard-hit hospitality sector. JobKeeper has failed hospitality workers, with the widespread eligibility issues leaving workers exposed to dire financial situations.

Hospitality workers also reported in the survey that they are being asked to sign non-ATO documents entitling their employer to pocket some of the payment or are facing employer demands to either drastically increase or decrease hours.

The survey’s main findings:

  • 68% of workers surveyed are ineligible for JobKeeper
  • 12% of those who are eligible say their employer is NOT applying on their behalf
  • Among those eligible for JobKeeper, 70% report their employer has made significant changes to their roster and duties (some are legitimate/lawful changes, whilst others are not)
  • 15% of eligible workers are being asked to sign nonATO documents, entitling the employer to some of the payment or other unlawful changes
  • Of the casual & temporary migrant workers surveyed, just 11% are currently working, and only 5% are working enough to cover their living expenses.

Issues reported by hospitality workers in the survey:

  • workers being sacked for asking about receiving JobKeeper
  • workers being pressured into accepting JobKeeper on the employer’s terms
  • workers forced into changes in hours and duties to receive JobKeeper (including carrying out renovations, cleaning, painting and gardening)
  • workers being asked to provide up to $300 ‘cash-back’ per week to employers in exchange for being nominated for JobKeeper
  • workers being forced to take annual leave in order to receive JobKeeper
  • eligible staff told they ‘don’t meet internal company requirements’
  • employers telling staff they won’t be participating in JobKeeper for ‘undisclosed reasons’
  • employers not wanting the administrative burden, telling workers they have had accounting advice that ‘it’s too much work to apply for JobKeeper’
  • employers telling workers they can’t afford the financial outlay before being reimbursed for JobKeeper payments by the government
  • casual staff being sacked and told they’ll be rehired as ‘first priority’ when the venue needs to rehire
  • businesses recently changing hands to new owners denying long-term casuals access to JobKeeper
  • rostered hours cut back to be only enough to cover the JobKeeper payment, or hours for part time workers increased to full time with an expectation to work enough hours to ‘earn’ the $750 payment
  • temporary visa workers and international students excluded from JobKeeper feeling ‘desperate’ and ‘unwelcome’.

Surveyed hospitality workers who are ineligible for JobKeeper (including temporary visa workers and international students) said they were trying to survive by drawing down savings and superannuation, borrowing from friends and family, deferring bills and rent, or using charity. Many reported being at risk of homelessness.

Tim Kennedy, National Secretary of United Workers Union says, “United Workers Union, and its hospitality arm Hospo Voice, are seeing many employers in the hospitality industry doing what they can to support staff and maximise the number of people who they keep in jobs.

“But at the same time, as the responses reveal, far too many hospitality workers are being left behind with Job Keeper. Workers are either excluded or are already having payments rorted and abused by employers.

“Josh Frydenberg can fix this with the stroke of a pen – he’s already tinkered around the edges with this legislation but he’s refusing to act now to help the workers left behind.

“There must be penalties for employers breaching the JobKeeper Fair Work Provisions. And there should be criminal penalties for rorting JobKeeper like there should be for any other type of wage theft.

“United Workers Union members will fight to ensure the hospitality industry that rises from the ashes of COVID-19 is much better and much fairer.”

One Hospo Voice member told of her JobKeeper experience in the survey, “My boss ‘chose’ five employees to receive JobKeeper. Then said we must work a minimum amount of hours per week, because we must comply with their terms and conditions to receive it. These hours ranged between 30-42 hours depending on the person, plus we are all full time students. If we could not commit to these hours, we would have to ‘pay them back’ over time, once the corona situation was over (e.g. work 30 hours but only get paid for 27 hours). However, we stood up for ourselves and said this is not right, printed off legal documents. Due to use standing up for ourselves, they took this as a personal attack and we all got terminated, so we were no longer eligible to receive JobKeeper.”

And another hospitality worker reported, “My boss is going to take an average of my hours for the year, and then pay me that and I give him back the JobKeeper difference. So, if my normal weekly pay is $400, he will give me the $750, then ask that I give him back $350. He’s told me the $350 will go towards paying his other permanent staff that he’s refusing to sign up to the scheme. I’ve been with them for over a year.”

*543 hospitality workers participated in the online Hospo Voice survey between 20 and 28 of April 2020. Hospitality workers (full time, part time and casual) participating included chefs, managers, waiting staff, baristas, catering staff and kitchen hands.