Unions are calling for a government wage subsidy of up to 80% to protect jobs from the coronavirus downturn

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  • The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) is calling for the government to pay wage subsidies to ensure people are not let go through the coronavirus pandemic.
  • In a statement, ACTU secretary Sally McManus called upon the government to provide a “coronavirus wage” of up to 80% of a worker’s standard wage.
  • It follows an announcement from the UK government that it would pay grants covering up to 80% of an employee’s wages if they are kept on the payroll through the fallout of the pandemic.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) is calling for a wage subsidy during the coronavirus pandemic in order to “save jobs and avoid an economic catastrophe”.

In a statement, ACTU secretary Sally McManus called upon the government to provide a “coronavirus wage” of up to 80% of a worker’s standard wage, as a way of preventing employers hard hit by the coronavirus-led economic downturn from laying off their staff.

“Tens of thousands of Australian workers are dealing with the reality of losing their jobs and the prospect of a major health and economic meltdown,” said McManus in a statement. “A guaranteed wage subsidy is the support Australian workers are demanding from their government.”

Presently, a wage subsidy is not part of the government’s strategy for dealing with the economic devastation wrought by the coronavirus, which has led to shutdowns of entire sectors of the economy, including pubs and bars.

Instead, the government announced in its second stimulus package a temporary supplement to the JobSeeker benefit, for those who lose their jobs during the coronavirus crisis. In the absence of other payments, such as rent assistance, this adds up to $1,100 per fortnight.

Other countries also facing a severe economic blow from the coronavirus have opted for wage subsidies as part of their stimulus and welfare packages.

In the United Kingdom, for example, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government has announced it will pay grants covering up to 80% of the salary of workers if companies keep them on the payroll, as part of an effort to keep people employed through the crisis.

McManus specifically refers to the UK example in her statement calling on the Australian government to do the same. “It can be decisive like Boris Johnson has been in the UK, or it can condemn Australian workers to the misery of job queues and the threat of inter-generational poverty not seen since the great depression,” she said.

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