Workers must be at centre of Coronavirus response

Queensland Unions say workers must be at the centrepiece of any national Coronavirus response action, including assistance for employees without paid leave.

Queensland Council of Unions General Secretary Michael Clifford said workers in casual employment had no paid sick leave and those suffering from Coronavirus could very well be forced by financial necessity to work when unwell.

It is estimated there are about 680,000 workers in Queensland who do not have access to any form of paid leave, such as sick leave.

“The federal Morrison LNP government must consider the plight of these workers in any response. If casual workers have a choice to starve or go to work despite being sick that will undermine any national directive to stay away from work if you are sick,” said Mr Clifford.

“The LNP in government has overseen an explosion of casual and insecure work, and to now lump the economic impact onto these workers is blatant risk-shifting and exploitation,” he said.

“The effect on workers in the ‘gig’ economy is also likely to be severe as economic activity slows down due to the impact of Coronavirus,” he said.

“In its blind pursuit of trickle-down economics and a meaningless surplus the Morrison LNP Government has ignored low wage growth, growing insecure work and shrinking household savings.

“We are calling on the Morrison LNP Government to immediately bring forward a plan to ensure that all workers are protected during this crisis and no one is forced to compromise their own health to keep food on the table.”

Mr Clifford also wants special leave provisions to be accessible for permanent workers who have been stood down or told to stay away from work because of the coronavirus response.

“If universities, schools and childcare centres are ordered to close down then permanent workers who otherwise are well should be able to use special leave rather than their own sick leave which they may need later on,” he said.

“Unions and workers want an economic package that ensures working people do not bear the brunt of economic hardship or be compelled to continue to work when sick,” he said.

Any national response plan should also prioritise:

  • Health and safety of health and emergency services workers at the forefront of dealing with Coronavirus
  • Ensuring that workers and their unions are fully informed about closures or workforce measures, such as shutting schools or universities.
  • Consideration of the important community roles of health and retail workers in dealing with people who are stressed or anxious.

State and federal governments have so far been very responsive to the needs of the business sector – now we need workers to be considered as well, he said.

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