Know your rights: How to join the AUWU #MOstrike

Everything you need to strike with confidence

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: https://auwu.substack.com/p/auwu-loves-jobs-hates-bullies

Update 28 September: Penalties for not completing ‘mutual’ obligations activities have been reintroduced. We have prepared detailed information to support unemployed workers to understand and assert their rights: https://auwu.substack.com/p/new-rights-guide-to-protect-unemployed


On 4 August the Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union called a strike to coincide with the reintroduction of harmful and oppressive ‘mutual’ obligations.

The AUWU has told its members to refuse to engage with job agencies.

We will not put welfare recipients at risk of penalties during the strike and have prepared resources to support people and protect their payment.

We encourage waged workers and other allies to take action in solidarity with unwaged workers on strike. Go to the end of this page to see how you can help.

The abuse of unwaged, underemployed and insecure workers hurts us all – we are stronger together.

If you’re not already an AUWU member join now for free: auwu.org.au

Below you will find information about:

  1. What you can refuse to do without penalty or having your payment cut

  2. What you can be forced to

  3. What you need to go on strike and know your rights

  4. What to do if your job agency bullies, threatens or pressures you

  5. How to show solidarity with unwaged workers on strike


What can I refuse to do?

Right now there are no penalties for refusing to participate in most mutual obligations activities. This applies to people in the jobactive, Disability Employment Services and ParentsNext programs.

You cannot be penalised for refusing to:

  • sign a job plan – if you don’t sign one it’s harder to force you into a job you don’t want

  • answer a phone call or email from your job agency

  • attend training programs

  • do work for the dole

  • complete volunteering shifts

  • attend appointments with your job agency

  • do job searches

  • complete ParentsNext activities


What can I be forced to do?

If you receive any income you must still report it to Centrelink, no matter where you live.

Note: the below requirements do not apply in Victoria – a full suspension remains in place and you can refuse all contact.

The government has said that job agencies can penalise you if you refuse to:

  • attend a job interview

  • accept an offer of suitable paid work

Contact the AUWU immediately if:

  • you are offered a job you don’t want – we will help you check whether you can refuse the job for a valid reason that will not affect your payment

  • you are told to attend a job interview in person – the department of employment has said that activities should be online or over the phone unless there are exceptional circumstances


What do I need to help me go on strike?

We’ve prepared these resources to help you join the strike and to give you confidence that your payment won’t be affected. You can download everything here: https://1drv.ms/u/s!Ao2X7nRblAZUhI80IsRlKHCgdPxJJA?e=4wwvW8

These include:

  • Social media graphics and profile stickers help you publicise your participation in the strike.

  • A letter you can send to your job agency to ask them not to contact you, including information about your right to not do activities.

  • A brief reference guide about the latest rules to assist you with self-advocacy.

  • Information to help you talk to MPs and other people in your community and to ask them to support the strike demands.

  • A bot that shares the latest information about the status of mutual obligations: https://twitter.com/AUWU_MOBOT

The best way to participate in and stay up to date on the strike is to join the AUWU at auwu.org.au – it’s free.

You can learn more about your rights by attending our next training session at 6pm AEST on 19 August. Sign up here: https://auwu.typeform.com/to/nciiE9QX


What do I do if my job agency continues to bully or harass me?

As always, the AUWU advocacy team is here to support you. Please call if you have any concerns or need help: 1800 AUWU 4U (1800 289 848)

If you are treated unfairly we will help you switch to a different provider – you have the right to change job agencies. We can also help you submit a complaint about your job agency.

We will support you to ensure that any offer of work meets the department’s criteria for suitability: https://guides.dss.gov.au/guide-social-security-law/3/11/1/20


Are there risks to going on strike?

We have worked with other stakeholders who agree that welfare recipients are not at risk of losing their payment for refusing to participate in activities that incur no penalty.

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

Although job agencies have threatened people with cuts to their payment during COVID19, they don’t have power to do this right now. We have spoken to Senator Cash’s office to confirm that job agencies can’t impose penalties while none are in place. They also confirmed that job agencies can’t retroactively punish you with penalties later either.


Mutual obligations: what even are they?

Before the mutual obligations suspension people could be cut off their measly payment if they refused to keep up with the punitive hamster wheel forced on them by the government and policed by for- and non-profit job agencies.

The types of activities include going to appointments with the job agency, applying for jobs, doing training, work for the dole, and a bunch of shitty shitty things that help no one get a job.

Go here for more info on why mutual obligations are not okay:


What can I do to show solidarity with strikers?

  1. Share posts on Facebook and Twitter, or update your profile to let people know you support the strike. We also prepared cool graphics that you can download here: https://1drv.ms/u/s!Ao2X7nRblAZUhI80IsRlKHCgdPxJJA?e=4wwvW8

  2. Send the link to this statement to people you know and ask them to participate.

  3. Sign the petition calling on the government to extend a full mutual obligations suspension to 31 December.

  4. Use the talking points we prepared to lobby MPs and other people in your community to support the strike demands.

  5. Join the AUWU as a solidarity member at auwu.org.au – it’s free.


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