March 29, 2020


Owner drivers, casual workers and gig economy workers must be included in any wage subsidy package the Federal Government is planning, the Transport Workers’ Union has warned.

The TWU also wants the package for stood down workers to include:

  • 80% subsidy of average income
  • administered through company payroll rather than Centrelink
  • apply to all workers who have been stood down and as soon as they are stood down with no delays
  • workers should not have to exhaust entitlements such as leave before they receive the subsidy

TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said the TWU welcomed confirmation that the Government has responded to calls for a wage subsidy, but that all workers must be covered.

“We are pleased that the Federal government has listened to the voices of working people and their representatives and begun to devise a plan to subsidise wages. This will come as a major relief to thousands of workers at Qantas, Virgin and other transport companies who have been stood down in recent weeks and are frightened for their future,” he said.

“We are appealing to the Federal Government to ensure no worker is left behind and that owner drivers with small trucking businesses, casual workers in bus companies or at the airport, taxi drivers, rideshare driver and food delivery riders are included in the plan. Often these workers are very vulnerable, whether they are owner drivers with massive overheads because of their trucks or gig economy workers on temporary visas. The Government cannot ignore them in this crisis,” Kaine added.

The TWU also wants the Federal Government to ensure companies, such as the airlines, receiving financial assistance must agree to pay workers back the leave they are being forced to take while stood down.

“For companies like Qantas it is vital that any public assistance they receive comes with conditions that no executive bonuses or shareholder dividends are paid before workers’ leave is paid back in full. Workers being forced to take leave are effectively bailing out the airline and when the crisis is over they must be compensated,” Kaine added.

The Federal Government has so far announced over $1 billion in financial assistance to airlines with no conditions attached.

In 2014, Qantas reported losses of $2.84 billion and sought a bailout from the Government. It then forced its workers to take an 18-month wage freeze which it subsequently refused to pay back in terms of its impact on nominal wages and superannuation. A report shows workers will suffer losses of up to $200,000*. Executive pay and bonuses have spiralled since the crisis in Qantas. In 2018, the Qantas CEO was named the highest paid CEO in Australia.

The TWU since March 15 has been asking the Federal Government for wage subsidies for workers affected by the crisis.

The Long-Term Consequences of Wage Freezes for Real Wages, Lifetime Earnings, and Superannuation. Centre for Future Work. February 2020.

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