As almost half of Australia battles through lockdowns, hundreds of thousands of casual workers without leave entitlements or JobKeeper payments, are facing an uncertain and anxious future.
Snap COVID lockdowns are in place across Greater Sydney and until recently, across South-East Queensland, Darwin, Alice Springs and Perth. Casual workers don’t get sick leave or annual leave, and they’re supposed to get a higher pay loading as compensation. But no work means no pay.
Tourism worker Cassandra Murray (pictured) is one of many Sydney residents in this predicament as the city’s lockdown drags on. She’s just lost more than a full week’s work a guide on a whale-watching vessel near Sydney.
“Even one week of lost work is a big toll,” she said.
Ms Murray has worked for the company for five years on an ongoing basis with largely full-time hours. It’s her only source of income.
“I’ve got rent to pay. Food, groceries, regular bills that people won’t think about. My car registration is due next week and that will be a week’s pay,” Ms Murray said.
There were nearly 2.3 million casual workers in Australia last year, according to the Bureau of Statistics. In fact, the ABS don’t really know exactly how many casual workers there are.
They suggest there are around 716,000 in New South Wales (about 31.4 per cent of all casuals in Australia). More than 505,000 are in Victoria (22.2 per cent) and 486,000 in Queensland (21.3 per cent).