A newly published survey from the United Workers Union suggests that up to 68 per cent of hospitality workers in Australia are currently ineligible for the government’s JopKeeper scheme. The hospitality industry has been one of the hardest hit sectors of the Australian economy, and despite the lifting of restrictions from May 15 permitting cafés and restaurants to offer seated dining, the reintroduction of the four-square-metre rule will likely prevent many venues from hiring new staff or returning to normal trading.
The survey also revealed issues with how employers were supporting their staff, with 12 per cent of JobKeeper eligible workers surveyed saying their employers had refused to apply for JobKeeper support for undisclosed reasons, as well as other isolated examples of staff having their JobKeeper benefits rorted or abused by their employers.
The survey also found that workers were being forced to agree to decreased wages or other conditions in order for their employers to back their nomination for JobKeeper support. Casual staff ineligible for JobKeeper had also been sacked on the spot. Many of the hospitality workers interviewed for the survey who are in Australia on temporary work visas or student visas said they were at imminent risk of becoming homeless. Others said they were making ends meet by either borrowing money, drawing from their super, deferring rent and bills, or by turning to charity initiatives for essentials like food.
The JobKeeper scheme has been widely criticised by unions and advocacy groups for its limitations, but despite pleas to expand the remit of the support program to include short-term casual workers, the federal government has refused to capitulate.
Currently, the $130 billion scheme can be accessed by workers who have been in full-time, part-time, or long-term (longer than one year) casual employment. New Zealanders on 444 visas are also eligible. The JobKeeper program is funded until September 27.