Our ‘bottom lines’ on COVID-19 and workers’ rights
Our expectations with regards to employers, the Government, and workers’ rights are outlined below.
- Special paid leave: A commitment that employers will back their employees with special paid leave in the event of COVID-19 related isolation and/or illness. No worker should suffer an income drop while they are helping to protect all of us from further spread of the virus.
- Wage security: Government wage subsidies to help employers facing COVID-19 related financial difficulties retain staff in decent jobs throughout the pandemic period. These subsidies must be generous and ensure workers can meet expenses such as rent and mortgages – and provide for casual, gig and contracted workers. In industries like aviation, these skilled staff are needed to drive the recovery of the business and our economy as soon as possible.
- Respect upcoming wage increases: Workers’ livelihoods and incomes must still be protected and enhanced. This means that all upcoming wage increases, including the scheduled minimum wage increase and increases negotiated in collective bargaining, must be maintained.
- Transition planning: Put in place a transition plan for affected workers. Plans should include what happens if work runs out, how employers will support the affected workers and their families, and how they will be brought back on board as possible. These should be a requirement where access to significant government funding happens. These should be in line with the principles of a ‘Just Transition’.
- Decent work alternatives: A government and business initiative to find alternative work for displaced workers using comparable skills, that pays at least the Living Wage.
- Skills and training: A government and business initiative to maximise skill training opportunities able to be rapidly deployed that could be linked to current and future Industry Transformation Plans.
- Family support: A government wage-support for those forced to stay at home to take care of sick children and family members, or in the event of school closures.
- Health care sector: Augmenting our care sector with additional resources that support our public health response, including extra staff.
- Workplace health: We must ensure the health of those at work, particularly those health workers (whether directly employed or contracted) who are on the front lines of this crisis. We must ensure adequate protective equipment is provided and workers have access to vaccines to protect their health and wellbeing. We can utilise trained workplace health and safety representatives who may become available to help ensure industry-wide information, training and compliance in workplaces.
- Strong unions: Unions can provide a unique perspective, and resource, in ensuring a ‘Just Transition’ response. A worker representative should be included in all decision-making at both government-level and in businesses. Unions also ensure rights and safety are upheld, and we seek an assurance from employers and government that workers will be able to access onsite representation from their union to protect their rights including health and safety. If this cannot be practically done due to health and safety concerns, employers must make alternative arrangements for union access.
- An urgent increase in payments for the unemployed: Protecting the existing unemployed as well as workers who have been laid off – they are the most vulnerable in our society.
Last updated: 27 October 2021