People Are Calling On The Government To Pay Casual Workers Who Miss Work Because Of Coronavirus
"Poverty paired with a pandemic is just going to make it much worse."
For casual workers, coronavirus isn’t just threatening their health — it’s also threatening their bank balance.
A third of workers in Australia are casual, giving them no access to sick leave. If they don’t go to work they don’t get paid, so what happens if they’re forced to miss work because of quarantine?
When a huge percentage of the workforce is on no-benefits casual or gig-culture, this is going to keep happening.
2 weeks off work could mean eviction for most of these people.
— Inner-City-Latte-Sippin-Dole-Bludgin Union Thug (@YOKYOKbeers) March 8, 2020
Over the weekend we got an answer, after a man who was told to self-isolate decided to go into work at a Hobart hotel instead. The next day his test results confirmed he had COVID-19.
The man felt sick after returning from Nepal, but worked seven shifts at the hotel and adjoining restaurant before he went in for testing. He was told to self-isolate until getting his results, but instead went to work and to his vocational college.
This is what happens when there are no social safety nets. Yes this was dangerous and he put other people at risk. The man also has to pay his bills. He'll likely be fired after this story blows up. Anywho, poverty paired with a pandemic is just going to make it much worse. https://t.co/c7WoAxw2l6
— Asia 🌿 (@AsiaChloeBrown) March 8, 2020
While he copped criticism him for possibly infecting others, many understood why he made the decision to go back to work.
I suspect he had bills to pay and people to support. What else was he going to do to keep a livable income happening? Oh, we could pay him while in isolation, but who will and will we?
— Mark Percival (@percyvale21) March 8, 2020
We have a casualised workforce. People can’t afford to stay home for two weeks unpaid. This will happen more and more and I don’t blame them.
— 🤪 (@Derra_2) March 8, 2020
If you can save for months to afford one holiday you can incur a major financial hardship at short notice, as these two things are exactly the same.
— covid-19 expert (@ScottxBelcher) March 8, 2020
Unions are now calling on the government to step in to try and prevent this kind of thing from happening, and pay those casual workers who are forced to miss work because of quarantine measures.
The secretary of Australia’s largest union, the ACTU, said the government needed to factor those workers in or risk sick people who can’t afford to miss a pay cheque taking the risk and possibly infecting more people.
“Think about where casual workers are, they’re all in person-to-person industries, so retail, hospitality and of course in health care and aged care, so it’s a really big issue,” Sally McManus told The Today Show.
“(The money) needs to get into the hands of the workers immediately because if there’s a delay obviously they can’t go down to Centrelink. It should be just paid leave, and if you have to compensate the employers later on that won’t matter so much.”
People being forced into self quarantine is cause for concern for Australia's 3.3 million casual workers, who fear two weeks of no work and no pay if they're caught up in the COVID-19 crisis. #9Today pic.twitter.com/OOoiaIpTBf
— The Today Show (@TheTodayShow) March 8, 2020
But today our Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter suggested that casuals don’t need sick leave because they are paid slightly more, completely disregarding the fact that casuals are still mostly found in our lowest paid industries.
IR Minister Christian Porter suggests casuals are prepared for #coronavirus sick leave because they are paid more. "Many people would have already made provisions for that because of course the purpose of casual employment is that you're paid extra in lieu of entitlements."
— Eryk Bagshaw (@ErykBagshaw) March 10, 2020
Not all employers are waiting around to see whether the government is going to do anything.
Yesterday Macquarie University announced any casual staff members who are required to self-isolate because of coronavirus will still be paid for their shifts for up to two weeks. If the university is forced to close they will also continue to pay any casual staff members who are unable to work from home.
In a statement Vice-Chancellor Bruce Dowton said they understood many casual workers rely on their shifts to meet day-to-day expenses.
They always make it sound like he *wanted* to work smh
— Cryptid Cutie (@rishapri) March 8, 2020
However, some NSW government employees have been told quarantine periods would have to come out of their annual leave — or possibly be unpaid — if they were travelling back from a risky country.
The government is putting together a multi-billion dollar stimulus package to try and limit the damage that coronavirus is having on Australia’s economy.
The ACTU met with them this morning to lobby for casual workers.
Details of the package are expected to be announced this week.
Feature Image: Wikimedia Commons