MEDIA RELEASE: Friday 20 March, 2020
As the Government pours billions into emergency stimulus measures, we need mechanisms to ensure recipients of federal funds meet minimum employment standards, says the union representing Australia’s diverse electrical workforce.
ETU (Electrical Trades Union) National Secretary Allen Hicks says taxpayer money needs to be directed to affected workers, to ensure that public spending sets Australia up for sustainable recovery.
“So far, we’ve seen public funding go to major companies with no strings attached. This has got to change.
“We can’t have another instance of a major company like Qantas taking federal bailouts only to stand down 20,000 workers the next day without pay. If a company is turning profits of $2 billion over 18 months, we can’t permit them to meet the impacts of this crisis with Australian workers’ money; be that through taxpayers’ dollars or their own employees’ accrued leave.”
“The economic consequences of management taking a pay cut pale in comparison to those of working people losing incomes—incomes which support families, food, mortgages and rent payments.
“We absolutely need to strive to keep industries and companies afloat, but the focus has to be on workers’ livelihoods: not propping up share prices. Not lining the pockets of CEOs.
“We need measures to ensure companies accessing public funds and bail-outs are meeting minimum employment numbers, and demonstrating meaningful efforts to assist workers and communities throughout this time of crisis.
“This means keeping staff on where possible, including through altered work arrangements. It means paid special leave for those who have to stay at home, and income stability for those who can’t continue working—regardless of employment type.
“Public expenditure absolutely must be of benefit to the public. Otherwise, who are we bailing out?”
Mr. Hicks also stressed the need for federal action so that those losing work elsewhere across the economy don’t fall through the cracks.
“The Federal Government must urgently provide a support package to ensure those who are stood down have rapid and frictionless access to welfare payments.
“Governments around the world are doing this: In Spain and Sweden, they’re covering employees’ normal wages, in Hong Kong and Austria it’s direct payments to workers.
“Failing to look out for working people at this time will only prolong and intensify the effects of this downturn,” said Mr Hicks.
“Australia’s future recovery will rely on working people making it through this crisis—not on management’s salaries or shareholders’ rates of return.”
Media enquiries: ETU National Communications Coordinator – Zoe Power
0419 499 886, firstname.lastname@example.org