Workers In Struggle
ANMF July 28th Paid Pandemic Leave
The ANMF flagged the decision of the Fair Work Commission to create an ‘Award’ entitlement to paid pandemic leave from Wednesday 29 July 2020, for a period of three months but that most Victorian aged care employees will not be eligible. It will cover the Nurses Award 2010, Aged Care Award 2010, Health Professionals and Support Services Award 2010. However – an Award does not apply to an employee who is covered by an enterprise agreement. Most Victorian aged care employees are covered by an enterprise agreement, and therefore not covered by this decision.
It will apply to those working in aged care including many agency staff, provided they can demonstrate that they work on a ‘regular and systematic basis’. A ‘regular and systematic basis’ of work will not require a consistent pattern of engagement in the number of days worked each week, the days of the week worked or the duration of each shift.
If an employee is sick and has an entitlement to paid leave, this should be taken first, before you can access paid pandemic leave. Where an employee is diagnosed with COVID-19, and the employee becomes entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, the leave entitlement will cease to apply.
The relevant employee must agree to undertake a COVID-19 test at the earliest opportunity. Where the self-isolation results from the advice of a medical practitioner a medical certificate to be produced. The Commonwealth Government has announced funding support for employers to enable paid leave. However, they have not imposed any rules, or provided any guidance at this time as to how an employee can access this.
If tested and are awaiting test results, a worker should isolate. If without access to paid sick leave a worker can access the Victorian Government’s payment of up to $300. If tested positive without sick leave, workers can access to the Victorian Government’s one-off payment of up to $1500. Unions will continue to lobby the Government for paid pandemic leave for all workers as a priority. Jessica Munday said, “If we’re serious about containing outbreaks in workplaces, we need to remove what is becoming the biggest barrier - loss of income and fears over job security.”
HACSU Tasmania Assistant Secretary, Robbie Moore, said their union will now be working on ensuring the aged care facilities in Tasmania, which are covered by enterprise agreements, honour the decision by agreeing to pay their workers the leave.
The pandemic has exposed the public health shortcomings of the massive growth of insecure work over the past few decades. There is a clear line between the Victorian covid outbreaks of and widespread insecure work in Australia, said Peter Whiteford, a professor of public policy at the Australian National University. Australia has the third highest rate of insecure work among developed countries. About 24 per cent of Australian employees are casuals without any access to paid leave.
Emergency coronavirus powers are being legislated to allow about 960,000 companies using JobKeeper wage subsidies to vary hours, duties and job location. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has flagged making the arrangements permanent even if the businesses no longer access the payments.
A Four Corners Investigations into NSW iCare and Victorian workers’ compensation scheme have shown over paid executives, unvetted contracts, insurers insentivised to kick ill workers off compensation and incompetent fiscal management threatening the entire workers’ compensation system.
Regional Woolworths distribution centre workers have begun protected action this week with a 24 hour stoppage over a pay dispute. The site with 600 workers and a UWU membership of 580 workers took the action on Tuesday calling for wage parity with Sydney workers at other sites doing the same work. At Wyong they receive $28 an hour - $10 less than Sydney workers. The company responded with a lock out on the Wednesday. The dispute is on-going and expected to escalate. There has been MUA support with a May 1 movement car rally.
Manufacturing Still Matters
The AMWU in conjunction with the Centre for Future Work launched its report into Australian Manufacturing, Manufacturing (Still) Matters this week. Author Dr Stanford estimates that increasing Australia’s manufacturing self-sufficiency to 100 per cent could add another $180 billion a year in new manufacturing output, boost GDP by $50 billion a year and add more than 650,000 direct and indirect jobs.
AS it stands Australia has the least diverse economy in the OECD and figures at the bottom of a scale for manufacturing self-sufficiency at 36th in the OECD.
Wage Theft Win at Melbourne University
Millions of dollars are set to be re-paid to staff across 4 faculties at Melbourne University after years of systemic wage theft, with the faculty of arts staff alone owed an estimated $6 million. This result comes as part of negotiations between university management and the NTEU after casual and sessional staff members pushed the issue through a grassroots campaign. While the theft is staggering it may not be surprising for those familiar with the rates of precarity in the university sector that allow such exploitation. Last year UoM boasted reserves of 4.43 billion while more than 73% of the staff are in insecure work.
The Worker’s Solidarity Bulletin is a living document written to reflect what is happening within the labour movement, here in Australia and across the world. The producers of this publication, and participants in Workers Solidarity more broadly, don’t necessarily endorse or agree with all of the views in this publication. This is a place for debate and discussion.
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Meg O'Shea | @even.little.meg