Living Incomes For Everyone (LIFE) promised to disrupt corporate decision makers at its launch on July 21 attended by 100 on zoom while 4700 logged in on Facebook. It was supported by Hunter Workers in Newcastle and the Anti-Poverty Network in South Australia.
United Workers Union (UWU) organiser from the Northern Territory Wayne Kurnoth acknowledged country, saying that schemes liker Work for the Dole and the cashless debit card were first tried out on Indigenous communities.
Different aspects of how low wages, corporate greed, casualisation and inequality have been exacerbated by COVID-19 were highlighted by a range of speakers, including UWU general secretary Tim Kennedy, Community Disability Alliance’s David Belcher, the Tomorrow Movement’s Carina Mammone and Unemployed Workers Union spokesperson Sean Kenny. Mark Seymour from the Hunters and Collectors also spoke and sang.
Eileen Darley outlined LIFE’s key demands including: support for maintaining JobSeeker at a minimum of $1100 a fortnight; raising all social security allowances to this amount and keeping JobKeeper, but direct it to workers not bosses.
Darley said creating jobs and increasing the minimum wage showed how LIFE focuses on unemployed workers and those with jobs. For those out of work, LIFE is demanding an end to the punitive measures employed by the privatised Job Network, which keep working people in poverty.
LIFE initiator Don Sutherland told Green Left that the federal government’s cuts to JobKeeper and JobSeeker showed the limits of lobbying.
He said cutting income support payments and forcing vulnerable people, such as international students, women and young people, into unsafe and insecure jobs during a pandemic is unjust.
We need to build a movement that demands secure and well-paid jobs, well-funded public services, a safe climate and an economic recovery that serves people’s needs, he said.
Janet Burstall concurred, saying that there was an urgent need to mobilise in solidarity with unemployed workers to disrupt government and corporate decision-making.
[Steve O’Brien is trade union and Socialist Alliance activist in Newcastle.]