AUWU calls ‘mutual’ obligations strike

AUWU members should refuse to participate in pointless and punitive MO activities

Update 6 August: The minister accused the AUWU of telling unwaged workers to risk their payment. We have been explicitly telling people not to do this in all our announcements. See our response to the minister here:

The Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union calls on all welfare recipients to join us in opposing the reintroduction of ‘mutual’ obligations.

We’re calling a strike and directing people on JobSeeker and related payments to firmly refuse to engage with job agencies while no penalties are in place.

We will hit lying job agencies hard and do everything in our power to deprive these publicly funded billionaire poverty profiteers of revenue.

We won’t accept Senator Cash spreading misleading information. We won’t accept (un)employment providers lying to JobSeekers. We won’t accept those in power playing with the lives and wellbeing of 1.6 million people – and doing so in the middle of a global pandemic and economic crisis. It’s unsafe.

We repeatedly asked the employment minister to engage with us in good faith and she’s refused. We waited for responses to our questions and they went unanswered for weeks.

We demand the government confirm a full mutual obligations suspension until at least 31 December.

Unwaged, underemployed and insecure workers must not be forced to engage with job agencies – they fail to find us work at the best of times, let alone when the treasurer is forecasting unemployment rising to 9.25 per cent by Christmas.

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We will not put welfare recipients at risk of penalties during the strike.

We’ve prepared information and resources to assist people in understanding their rights:

While most activities are effectively voluntary, the minister has announced penalties will apply if people refuse to attend a job interview or accept an offer of suitable paid employment.

We will support JobSeekers to ensure that all interviews are conducted safely and offers of work meet the department’s criteria for suitability:

If any JobSeeker is treated unfairly by their job agency we will advise them to switch to a different provider and assist them in doing so. We will also encourage and help JobSeekers lodge a complaint if they experience bad behaviour from their job agency.

Why the AUWU is going on strike

The employment minister has shown she is not acting in the best interest of the 1.6 million people for whom she has a duty of care.

Senator Cash has repeatedly issued statements designed to give job agencies leverage to coerce people when they are not required to engage. The ministers’ obfuscation and refusal to work with key stakeholders is unacceptable.

Despite our requests, the minister has repeatedly failed to provide clear information and has announced changes to mutual obligations with no notice, causing confusion and distress for many vulnerable people.

We demand the minister and department provide information that is timely, simple and consistent. They must emphasise that job agencies have to stop lying about penalties and ensure that this is communicated to job agency staff. They must put a stop to bullying, threats and harassment. We have shared evidence of this abuse with the minister and department, yet according to our members job agencies’ behaviour has not changed.

If the department has already communicated with job agencies about these problems they should release the correspondence publicly to reassure anxious JobSeekers and help them assert their rights.

By 30 June 2020 the number of people on JobSeeker or Youth Allowance payments had nearly doubled since March 2020, having increased from about 800,000 to 1.6 million. The national unemployment rate hit 7.4 per cent and the underutilisation rate was 19.1 per cent.

The federal government is attempting to reintroduce mutual obligations despite the job vacancy rate dropping 43.2 per cent between February and May 2020 (the latest available figures). They are doing this even though they know it will cause stress for welfare recipients and waste businesses’ time.

Job agencies’ practices have always been unsafe and in the middle of a global pandemic and economic catastrophe they’ve continued to be so. If they’re behaving like this now, what will happen when 1.6 million people are forced by the government to do what job agencies say?

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