A new report finds tradies and shift workers were the state’s forgotten people during COVID and recommends a trial of 24-hour day care and toll relief to help our blue, pink and fluoro-collared workforce.
The McKell Institute research for Unions NSW will be presented to Treasurer Dominic Perrottet as a State Budget option paper. It finds many of the workers in question suffered greatly reduced incomes and work hours at the height of the pandemic, all while facing a higher degree of exposure to COVID.
By December of 2020 the tradies, apprentices and labourers of Greater Sydney were earning a combined $143 million less each week due to the economic downturn. This 860,000-strong group makes up almost one-third of the NSW workforce.
Shift workers, who make up about 16 per cent of all employees in areas including health, emergency services, security, transport, logistics, and other private industries dealt with the double blow of having shifts cancelled while grappling with double the risk of catching COVID-19 as those who work in the day.
The report recommends the NSW Government improve these workers’ lives by making early childhood education and care more accessible, with a pilot of a council-run, 24-hour service. The report also calls for cheaper public transport for shift workers, and to run it 24-hours.
For tradies, the report calls for expanded expanded toll-relief schemes and and easing of driver demerit points for them and apprentices who must work in multiple locations. It recognises that tradies disproportionately reside in Greater Sydney, making them more susceptible to toll rises. A further recommendation is legislating to ensure small businesses are paid on time.
“Our blue, pink and fluoro collared workers are the backbone of the State. They copped it during the pandemic, and now in the recovery they face insecurity and a constant financial gouge, just to do their job,” said Unions NSW Secretary Mark Morey.
“The next Labor leader needs to reconnect with these workers by presenting real options to ease the cost of living and give them better access to childcare. It’s hard to get ahead when you’re crippled by tolls and you don’t know who is going to look after your kids. Labor’s best chance to win back the outer suburbs is by supporting these people so they can have a go.”
Michael Buckland, executive director of the McKell Institute said the paper revealed disturbing trends about the NSW economy and workforce.
“At the height of the downturn Sydney tradies lost a staggering $143 million per week,” Mr Buckland said.
“If the relative burden of shiftwork and trades work continues to increase, skills and labour shortages will only increase and put the brakes on the state’s post-COVID recovery.
“Expanding childcare and reducing the cost of getting to work is the least we can do for this hardworking section of the workforce that took so much of the brunt of the pandemic. These proposals deserve to be in the Budget and will have the benefit of attracting and retaining the workforce NSW needs.”