Following the announcement of a timeline towards open borders into WA, UnionsWA has today called for the introduce of an emergency COVID Payment to financially support those in insecure work who will soon be unable to attend work or earn income because of COVID transmission in workplaces or a requirement to isolate after exposure at work. This call also coincides with the release today by the ABS of the latest data on insecure work in WA which has found that there are 276,100 working West Australians without leave entitlements due to sickness or unplanned absence from work. There has been a marked increase in casual work among women generally in WA as well as among part time working people in WA.
Owen Whittle, Secretary UnionsWA said:
“The planned, safe opening of WA’s borders is a welcome milestone for many social and economic reasons.
“The pandemic has highlighted the importance of working people in jobs otherwise taken for granted - not only our health workforce but also those in transport, retail and doing work such as cleaners and in security which are essential.
“We know that opening of our borders to the virus will result in restrictions, including the closure of workplaces where outbreaks occur or the requirement for workers to isolate after exposure to COVID at work.
“While those in secure jobs will have some rights to paid leave under such circumstances, those in insecure work do not.
“In other States a COVID isolation payment has been an important tool to prevent financial hardship.
“Working people should not have to make the impossible choice between going to work unwell or paying the rent”
“We’ve seen how the financial insecurity of work has posed a health risk to us all as too many have had to hold down two or more jobs just to survive.
“Having to isolate at home, highlights how those in insecure jobs often struggle to afford adequate housing, including struggling to buy their own home.
“Inadequate and overcrowded housing is a health risk to those in insecure jobs as well as to their families and the community.
“As WA transitions into this new phase of the pandemic, and in the period beyond that, we should be using the opportunity to create secure jobs and boost wages.
“We should not return to the old normal of too much insecure work.
“When the pay and conditions of one section of the workforce are put at risk, undermines the pay and conditions of all working people.
”Today’s ABS data shows that casual work in WA is rife – with a reported 276,100 working West Australians in jobs without any leave entitlement.
“While that figure for 2021 is unchanged from 2020 in WA, the rapid increase in casual work among women in WA is a serious concern.
“In 2019 there were 135,400 working women in casual work without leave entitlements, this rose by 17.4% in 2021 to number 158,900.
“Part time workers with no leave entitlements in WA also rose dramatically over the past two years.
“In 2019 we had 178,700 part time workers in WA, now that is up by 10.6% over the past two years to number 189,400.”