This morning’s announcement from Daniel Andrews to develop a Secure Work Pilot Scheme is a big step in the right direction for casual workers in Victoria. The United Workers Union represents workers in casual and precarious jobs across many industries including hospitality, warehousing, cleaning and farms. The Union has been calling for greater job security for precarious workers for close to a decade.
The scheme acknowledges insecure work as a driving force of Victoria’s second wave of COVID-19 and will allow casual workers to access financial support if they need time away from work because they are sick. Initially, this will be funded by the Victorian state government but will become a scheme that employers also contribute to. The Premier and his government are commended for taking this step and for implementing measures to support casual workers through this crisis.
However, issues of insecure work and access to paid sick leave are nationwide matters that must be addressed at the Federal level. Scott Morrison and his government should amend Australia’s National Employment Standards to ensure 10 days’ universal paid sick leave for every worker.
Quotes attributable to Tim Kennedy, United Workers Union National Secretary:
“The Victorian Government is the first government to acknowledge that casual and precarious workers need more job security. This is about saying we must put a floor of security under all workers if we want to recover from this crisis and we congratulate the Premier and his government for taking this step.
“Today’s announcement acknowledges that public health is fundamentally connected to the job security of members of our community. Greater job security is not only important for precarious workers and their families, it protects the whole community.
“Insecure work does not only affect Victorians, it has become the norm all across this country. At the Federal level, Scott Morrison and his government must ensure precarious workers have basic workplace protections including universal paid sick leave.
“We cannot have two classes of workers in this country anymore. The Morrison Government must implement universal paid sick leave for all workers to ensure more Australians have jobs they can count on.”
Quotes attributable to casual hospitality worker Yasmine Sharaf:
“It’s so commonplace to get sick and have to go to work. What I would be thinking about when I get sick is what time is it, is there enough time to let my boss know, is there someone to cover my shift, and can I afford to miss this shift? Will I be able to pay the rent if I don’t go to work?
“Massive anxiety if you wake up sick and know you have to go to work. That fear is intense.
“I think the way the industry saw things is it’s your job just to battle through being sick and just get on with it. Especially if you just started working at a new place – that’s not the impression I want to give them.
“No one is going tell you they’re not giving you a shift because you’ve taken too much time off, but you’ll start to notice.
“Especially if you’re a casual and you’re getting your roster out, you could be having five shifts one week, and taking too much time off sick, and then only getting one shift a week – or no shifts. It’s actually pretty common.
“I never want to go to work sick – you don’t want to make anyone else sick – when you’re working in such close proximity. That’s a horrible thought.”