We were urged to welcome insecure work as a liberation from the old industrial order. Now the chickens are coming home to roost.
Of the 3,810 Victorians who tested positive for coronavirus over the past three weeks, 89 per cent kept working despite their early symptoms. They simply couldn’t afford to stay home.
Far too many people don’t have sick leave entitlements and they can’t afford to miss a shift.
Ever since the Hawke and Keating years, governments have hailed workplace deregulation and flexibility, as they eroded centralised bargaining and awards in the scramble for productivity.
When new hires asked about wages, the recruiter simply messaged, “25 dollars, ABN”, meaning that they would be paid (poorly) as independent contractors rather than employees.
Employers use subcontracting to drive down rates, to avoid liabilities and duck their own responsibilities.
The Australian workforce is highly casualised, relatively low-paid and transient workforce with so-called sham contracting to ensure workers don’t receive employment entitlements such as overtime, penalty rates and leave.
The effects aren’t simply felt by university lecturers, software programmers, security guards and cleaners but extend throughout society.
According to the Australian, 17 of the 29 people killed by Victoria’s current wave of Covid-19 have been in aged care homes, with at least 40 facilities across the state reporting one or more infections.
The march of the virus through those most susceptible to it, reveals the horrendous consequences of casualisation in a sector increasingly run on market principles.
As some of the lowest-paid employees in Australia (rates of $23 per hour are standard), aged care staff rarely have full-time jobs.
What did we expect when, instead of insisting that our loved ones receive care from well-remunerated professionals, we allowed workers performing difficult and demanding jobs to be paid at poverty rates?