The Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union (AUWU) has condemned the federal government’s announcement on February 23 to “raise” the low unemployment rate by $3 a day, describing it as a “savage attack on unemployed people”.
The government intends to remove the pandemic supplement at the end of March. This will leave those without work to survive on $43 a day (compared to the harsh pre-pandemic rate of $40).
Jobseekers struggle to meet their basic needs on the current rate of just $51 per day.
“The government showed last year that they can lift millions out of poverty overnight, and they can easily do the same now,” AUWU spokesperson Kristin O’Connell said.
“The slashed $615 per fortnight JobSeeker rate announced today [will] … trap 1.4 million people and their kids almost 50% below the poverty line.
“This is not a raise; it is a cut,” O’Connell continued, adding that it will “entrench poverty and lock people out of work for years or decades, as we have seen in every past recession”. O'Connell also warned of the impact of these cuts on peoples’ mental health.
“We don’t believe the government should force anyone to live in poverty and we know the vast majority agrees with us.
“There are not enough jobs. Instead of handing billions of dollars to private organisations who bully, threaten and harass us, the government should be caring for people who are locked out of work,” O’Connell said, referring to the job providers who are going to be given more power to harass unemployed people.
O’Connell said the government’s “poverty machine” is designed to crush the unemployed “while funnelling billions from our welfare system into private organisations who brutalise us”.
The union has vowed to fight the government. It has launched a new campaign for unemployment payments to be set at the poverty line of $80 a day — “a meaningful increase that provides us with enough to cover the basics: regular meals; a safe place to live; healthcare and paying the bills on time”.
It is also demanding an end to the brutal "mutual” obligations regime.
“We call on the Australian Labor Party to stop treating JobSeekers with disdain and #NameTheRate. It is time for [leader] Anthony Albanese to step up and be open about his position on our poverty,” it said.
“The government’s plan is for 6% unemployment, which will leave about 1 million people and their kids stuck on unemployment payments. It is their responsibility to make sure everyone has enough to cover the basics.”
[The AUWU is gathering messages from #80aDay supporters about why keeping unemployed people out of poverty is important to them. You can download their contributions here. Permission has been given to share and quote these messages.]