Casual construction workers must not be excluded from wage subsidies

By Simon Stokes
Editor, Construction Worker Magazine

The CFMEU National Construction division is calling for the expansion of the wage subsidy scheme to include workers in the building and construction industry who would be excluded under current rules, warning that many workers will miss out unless the scheme is changed.

“Construction workers are helping keep Australia moving during this crisis and need to be looked after in the event of job losses or shutdowns”, said Dave Noonan, CFMEU National Construction Secretary.

Data from the ABS shows there are around 87,000 casual workers in the construction industry employed for less than 12 months who will be excluded under the proposed set up of this scheme if they lose work during this pandemic crisis.

“No construction worker affected by shutdowns should miss out on support,” said Dave Noonan.

“The Australian trade union movement has worked hard to convince the government of the need for a wage supplement scheme. Labor supported it, and we welcome the government changing its position to now support a safety net to protect workers.”

“However, the wage supplement is less than what is being paid in other countries and the CFMEU is concerned at the number of people in our industry who will miss out under the current set up of the scheme.”

CFMEU has been fighting the increased use of casualisation in the construction industry for years. One primary objection has been the absence of leave entitlements for casual workers in an emergency.

“The idea that the casual loading allows workers to put aside their own savings in the case of an emergency has been shown to be complete bullshit”, said CFMEU Construction and General WA State Secretary, Mick Buchan.

“Wages and conditions have been so eroded relative to the cost of living that families are using every cent of that loading for their week to week expenses.”

“This virus is showing up the rotten heart of Australian businesses employment tactics. The drive to cut costs by big business, and the willing betrayal of workers by our own government, has resulted in us having the highest rate of casual workers anywhere in the world.”

“And now that the shit is hitting the fan, the vulnerability of those workers and our whole industrial system is being exposed.”

“Why should those workers miss out on the social and economic protections that are desperately needed and provided to others. They didn’t ask to be made casual. They stood with us on picket lines and tried desperately to stop casualisation of their jobs.”

CFMEU National Construction Sectretary, Dave Noonan, agrees.

“Casual workers in construction who are helping keep the Australian economy functioning should not be excluded due to arbitrary constraints.”

“Casual workers deserve a fair go and to be treated equally to other workers.”

“Construction workers are keeping the economy moving at a time of great uncertainty and the government must treat all workers equally and ensure the safety net is there for every single person who needs it.”

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