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Nationwide virtual picket line calls for no worker to be left behind


WHEN: 12pm (AEDT) TODAY, Friday 03 April 2020


WHAT: Thousands of Australian workers from every state join together to protest the exclusion of millions of workers from government support during the COVID-19 crisis.

WHO: Workers directly impacted by the exclusions are available for interview.

Media Contact: 1300 898 633, [email protected]


Today the largest Australia-wide ‘virtual picket line’ is taking place. The ‘virtual picket line’ will raise awareness of how the Federal Government’s wage subsidy excludes millions of workers, and how migrant workers have been left in limbo with no guaranteed access to safe and affordable healthcare amidst the global coronavirus pandemic.

The United Workers Union who represents 150,000 workers, including workers in hospitality and on farms, is taking the fight online.

United Workers members will be live streaming from their front lawns, balconies, lunchrooms and workplaces to highlight the limitations on how the subsidy is applied to migrant and casual workers.

The Government’s current wage subsidy initiative will leave millions of people behind. Migrant and casual workers, who haven’t been at their current workplaces for 12 months or more, are being excluded.

Workers will share videos of themselves taking action in their homes and workplaces using the hashtags #MakeSomeNoise and #NoWorkerLeftBehind.

Tiff Tan, one of our Hospo Voice members – the hospitality arm of the United Workers Union and a qualified chef, has lost her job.

“I am on a sponsored visa and have been in Australia for ten years. A week ago my employer laid me off because of the impact of COVID-19 on his business. I have no income, no job and my visa will expire in a month from now. I don’t know what to do.

“Australia’s hospitality industry depends on migrants like me. But now the government is leaving us to sleep in our cars and starve. I am so angry at how we’ve been treated. It’s time to fight back.”

Jordi Veltheer, a waiter and bartender, says, “I started my current job in January this year so I will miss out on the JobKeeper payment. The nature of this industry is that people move on from employer to employer once a year.

“Huge chunks of the workforce aren’t going to get this payment. It’s not good enough. For workers like me, going on to JobSeeker means I will lose a third of my wage. I have no savings and rent is due soon. I can’t borrow money from my family. I’m really worried about how I am going to survive.”

YaYa, a farm worker originally from Malaysia, says “We need a wage subsidy for every worker. We work hard, we pay taxes, now is the time for all workers to be supported. We need a visa amnesty for undocumented workers. If farm workers are left behind, it will be a risk to public health and food supply.”

Junior is a Ni-Vanuatu worker who is working in Australia as part of the Seasonal Worker Programme.

“We sacrifice ourselves picking during all weather, and we are usually painted with mud so people can easily walk inside a shop to grab some beautiful veggies to enjoy. The visa situation isn’t fair. We contribute to the economy every season; we still pay tax, insurance, food, house bills, transportation, just like every Australian citizen. We just want to earn a living wage, and we need the Government to fix our visas.”

National Secretary of United Workers Union Tim Kennedy says: “Today United Workers Union members are taking action and standing in solidarity with each other.

“Together we are calling on the Government to revise their wage subsidy announcement to include every worker in Australia.

“Our view is that the payment needs to go to all workers – casuals, labour hire, freelancers, contractors and gig workers, irrespective of their citizenship as well.

“UWU continues to call for a Jobs Guarantee backed by a 100% wage guarantee and an Income Guarantee for all unemployed workers.

“Migrant workers are facing the uncertainty of ever changing travel restrictions and border closures, if their visa expires during the pandemic they won’t be allowed to continue the essential work they do, and if they lose their job will not legally be able to seek other employment. It’s a dire situation.

“As casual workers and non-citizens, temporary migrant workers do not have the visa security, wage support and access to healthcare they need to be protected in this national health crisis.

“We must ensure all workers are included and supported to the extent that is needed. We just cannot have a crisis where some are more privileged than others. No worker should be left behind.”

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, of the 2.6 million casual workers in Australia, around 955,000 have been with their current employer for less than a year and there are 1.4 million visa workers who are currently being excluded from government support during this crisis.