Victorian casual workers will receive paid sick leave and paid carer’s under the state government’s budget, to be released on Tuesday.
Premier Daniel Andrews revealed the state budget would contribute $5 million to the Secure Work Pilot scheme, which is expected to begin in late 2021 or early 2022.
The pilot scheme will be part of a two-year trial, and would see casual workers in aged care, cleaning and hospitality to be paid up to five days’ sick and carer’s leave, Andrews revealed.
"So many workers have to choose between going to work sick or feeding their kids, paying their rent, paying the bills, surviving, getting to next week," Andrews said.
"That's not something that we should settle for, I think we're better than that. I think that we can build a system that is fairer and safer."
However, unlike leave entitlements for permanent workers, the sick and carer’s leave will not accumulate for casual staff.
According to Australian Bureau of Statistics data, around 652,000 Australians were employed casually in Victoria, representing around 23 per cent of the working population in the state.
Andrews said the Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the “toxic” issue of insecure work in Australia.
"You don't want to be served a meal in a restaurant by someone who is sick," the Victorian Premier said.
"You don't want your elderly parent or grandparent to be cared for in a private aged-care facility by someone who's sick."
The pilot scheme will be fully funded by the state government, but if it remains in place, Andrews said a “modest” industry levy would be charged.
Unions and Labor have backed the policy, saying Victoria was showing leadership.
"Scott Morrison still doesn't seem to get that insecure work is a problem in Australia," Labor’s industrial relationship spokesman, Tony Burke said.
"Once again, the states have been forced to act because Mr Morrison and Christian Porter have failed to do so."
Is the Government on board?
Industrial relations minister, Christian Porter, wasn’t a fan of the pilot scheme, saying it would do more harm to businesses than good.
"After Victorian businesses have been through their hardest year in the last century, why on earth would you be starting a policy that promises to finish with another big tax on business at precisely the time they can least afford any more economic hits?" he said.
Instead, Porter said the government should be introducing policies to help casuals move into permanent reforms.
Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief James Pearson also expressed concerns, saying the state government was attempting to change the meaning of casual work.
"It sets a worrying precedent which could lead to businesses, many of which are family and small operations, having to pay more for casuals," he said.
Instead, he suggested a safety net payment that was not linked to wages or any form of employment.
Victoria’s budget blowout
The measures are part of the Victorian government’s budget, which is expected to be handed down on Tuesday.
The budget will likely plunge the state into a $23.3 billion deficit in 2020/21, $13 billion in 2021/22 and $6.7 billion in 2022/23 due to the spend.
Within that, Andrews revealed $3 billion would go towards upgrading and building new schools, $5.3 billion would be spent on social housing, $5 billion would go towards building the new airport rail link and a further $4.2 billion would be spent on rail lines.
Around $1.6 billion would be spent on supporting students with disabilities, and nearly $900 million would be spent on mental health initiatives.
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