While JobKeeper is a valuable lifeline for ensuring job security for some workers, it is also being exploited by some employers.
I am one of those “lucky” casual workers, currently receiving the JobKeeper wage subsidy. I work for an Outside School Hours company and, from my experience, the system is being used by bosses to boost their bottom line, rather than protect workers though the pandemic shutdown.
Those of us on JobKeeper have received emails from the company’s human resources people telling us to increase our availability to work as a condition of receiving JobKeeper, and that it’s not in the spirit of program to not comply.
This is despite the fact that, legally, bosses are not allowed to compel employees to work any more than their usual hours.
While it might sound reasonable to ask casual workers to work the number of hours on par with the JobKeeper payment, it ignores the fact that many casual workers are not in a position to work the hours the boss wants us to.
This could be because we may have care duties, we might be full-time students and we might have underlying health issues that prevent us from being able.
JobKeeper was created to keep workers in their jobs during the shutdown and, if the job was not able to be done, to ensure that workers did not starve or become homeless.
My employer is taking advantage of the government-subsidised wages: colleagues report that staff at services who were not eligible for Jobkeeper have been replaced by JobKeeper-eligible staff at short notice. Staff who were not eligible for JobKeeper received advice from the boss that they should apply to private external services, such as Huddle (the Uber equivalent in the childcare sector).
The email glowingly cited how one worker, who was not eligible for JobKeeper or Jobseeker, was employed elsewhere because of their heroic effort to find work.
This reflects the unjust status quo for many workers who have been denied JobKeeper protections.
At the end of April, after pressure from employees, the company was forced to implement health and safety measures, including lowering the staff to children ratio from 1:15 to 1:5.
However, the centre is already backtracking on this ratio as schools reopen, despite the fact that the company is still receiving Jobkeeper and other subsidies until the end of September.