- by B A Ford
- The Guardian
- Issue #1952
When I imagine cabinet ministers meeting with stakeholders to discuss JobSeeker, I see a bunch of terrifying posh people pushing reports and numbers aside for the night to drink, laugh and celebrate their insidious genius.
A raise for the first time since the ’90s! Something many of us relying on social security benefits have been wanting for years. When the government first started releasing its JobSeeker raise teaser trailer, a lot of us waited with bated breath hoping just maybe we will have a living income. A lot of us were already struggling to make ends meet, and with the final cut to the temporary COVID supplement at the end of March 2021, we’d be back to living off $40 a day or, more likely, $10 a day when you consider rent and bills eat up over half of our income.
But now we don’t have to worry anymore! No more living off $40 a day. Now we get the luxury of $43.57 a day! Everyone gets on their knees and praises the Liberal government, grovels at their display of humanity, their endless charity! Our first raise since the ’90s! The Morrison government will go down in history!
Wrong. We aren’t thankful, we aren’t happy, and we certainly don’t have a living income. An extra $3.57 a day feels like exactly what it is: a spit in the face.
It gets worse. This act of poisonous charity in the form of a $50 per fortnight raise for JobSeeker recipients is not all. Alongside this, the government is introducing what has been termed “DobSeeker.”
DobSeeker is a phone line that allows an employer to report a JobSeeker recipient if they turn down a job. This addition to the mutual obligations of JobSeeker, means that it will be even harder for unemployed and underemployed people to turn down work if the pay is too low, the working conditions are too poor, or if the potential employer is unsafe. Our $43.75 per day of income is held hostage and we can only receive it if we roll over for the bosses and suspend all our rights as workers.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) President Michelle O’Neil rightfully pointed out how harmful this could be for women. She said if women experience behaviour that is unsafe in an interview, such as sexual harassment, “the employer would have all the power and be able to dob them in and then they’d lose their benefits, their survival income.”
March 2021 not only marks the end of the remaining COVID Supplement, but it also marks the end of JobKeeper. Despite its issues, JobKeeper has been keeping both small businesses and workers afloat during COVID-19. The threat of COVID-19 isn’t over, and lockdowns are still a recent memory as well as a future possibility. This, partnered with the worker caps and density quotients in Victoria for example, means that not everyone is back at work.
In a statement made by the ACTU in the middle of February, President Michelle O’Neil stated that 1.5 mil workers are still relying on JobKeeper. Two million unemployed and underemployed people are relying on the federal government to keep them afloat, and the government is wiping its hands of all responsibility.
It’s a rough time for both employed, underemployed, and unemployed workers out there. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic we have seen attack after attack on us as the government and the Big Bosses bully us into paying for the crisis. Attacks are being conducted on all fronts, so it is imperative we stand up, fight back.