Has JobKeeper failed hospitality workers?

11 May, 2020 by Andy Young

Hospo Voice, the hospitality arm of United Workers Union, says a recent online survey it carried out has found that seven in 10 surveyed hospitality claim they will not receive the Governmant’s JobKeeper payment.

With workers either ineligible for the scheme or their employers have decided not to apply, the union says that JobKeeper has failed hospitality workers, adding that many workers are now facing a dire financial situation.

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Surveyed hospitality workers who are ineligible for JobKeeper (including temporary visa workers and international students) said they were trying to survive by drawing down savings and superannuation, borrowing from friends and family, deferring bills and rent, or using charity. Many reported being at risk of homelessness.

Tim Kennedy, National Secretary of United Workers Union said: “United Workers Union, and its hospitality arm Hospo Voice, are seeing many employers in the hospitality industry doing what they can to support staff and maximise the number of people who they keep in jobs.

“But at the same time, as the responses reveal, far too many hospitality workers are being left behind with JobKeeper. Workers are either excluded or are already having payments rorted and abused by employers.

“Josh Frydenberg can fix this with the stroke of a pen – he’s already tinkered around the edges with this legislation but he’s refusing to act now to help the workers left behind.

“There must be penalties for employers breaching the JobKeeper Fair Work Provisions. And there should be criminal penalties for rorting JobKeeper like there should be for any other type of wage theft.

“United Workers Union members will fight to ensure the hospitality industry that rises from the ashes of COVID-19 is much better and much fairer.”

News Limited has reported that the Prime Minister is already looking at changing some of the aspects of JobKeeper, including its flat rate structure, and what employers can do if a worker’s salary is less than the $1500 a fortnight subsidy.

News says the New Zealand scheme is being considered as one option for Australia. In New Zealand employers must pay the full wage subsidy to staff unless the worker’s normal income is less than the Government payment. In that situation the employer can use the left over amount to pay other employees including casuals and those who are not eligible.

Speaking on Friday the Prime Minister confirmed there is a review coming to JobKeeper, which was intended to run until late September.

“The JobKeeper and the JobSeeker program have a legislative life which was set out over a six month timeframe,” the PM said.

“I say it was scalable and what our objective is, is to grow the economy and get people back into jobs, and we’re making sure that people are being supported by the economy, and not the taxpayer, as quickly as possible.

“There’s a review built into JobKeeper to be done before the end of June. Treasury will be doing that, they’ve been doing a lot of work on that just over the last week or so. So, look, we’ll take that one step at a time.

“But I need to stress again that that was a temporary lifeline put in place to help Australians through the worst of this crisis. It comes at a very significant cost, not just to current but to future generations as well. And it will be there to get us, to meet that objective, but it’s not envisaged – never was – to be a longer term arrangement.”