The Morrison government’s stimulus package announced today in response to the coronavirus pandemic provides no relief for casual employees, the most vulnerable workers in the economy, or for the higher education sector, the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) said today.
“The government has refused to provide two weeks of paid special leave for people working without sick leave provisions,” NTEU national President Dr Alison Barnes said.
“This will especially affect casual workers in higher education. Universities are likely to be severely disrupted in the coming weeks and months if they need to close for any period.”
“Casual workers already struggle financially. The only assistance this package provides if things get worse is the option of moving on to sickness payments through Newstart without the waiting period.”
Dr Barnes said that the government’s lack of real assistance for casual workers is also reckless public health policy. “Workers who are forced to work to survive when they may be infected or should be self-quarantined can only make the pandemic threat greater.”
Dr Barnes said that the Union had written to Education Minister Dan Tehan on 14 February, calling on the government to develop an assistance package for the sector, but hadn’t even been given the courtesy of a response.
“It’s well-known that the sector is one of the hardest hit in the economy, so we’re very disappointed that there is nothing to support it in the stimulus package.”
Dr Barnes called on Australian universities to step up and fill the gap, and protect their employees during this crisis.
“As a minimum, every university should follow Southern Cross University’s and Macquarie University’s leads and guarantee no loss of income for any staff member affected by the coronavirus crisis.”
“We will be speaking with individual universities over the coming weeks about measures that might be taken to protect both the health and welfare of staff.”