Migrant Workers Abandoned in the COVID Recovery

COVID continues to sweep Europe and the US, while Australia celebrates near-elimination of community transmission. But Australia’s public health success has not come without significant economic and social hardship for large sections of our community – especially migrant workers. Thousands of migrant workers were pulled off the job to stop the spread of COVID-19, and excluded from key government income support programs including JobSeeker and JobKeeper. Temporary migrant workers are still left without access to Medicare. 

In this short, accessible commentary, Senior Economist Alison Pennington outlines how the pandemic, the resulting recession and government COVID-era policies have increased risks to migrant workers’ financial security, and health and safety. Building more secure, inclusive labour markets can reduce risks that future major events don’t hit the most vulnerable hardest.

This commentary was prepared for presentation to the Migrant Workers Centre Conference, November 2020. 

 

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IR Bill Will Cut Wages & Accelerate Precarity

The Morrison government has proposed sweeping changes to labour laws that will expand unilateral employer power to cut wages and freely deploy casual labour. Together, the Coalition's proposed changes will accelerate the incidence of insecure work, undermine genuine collective bargaining, and suppress wages growth. Impacts will be felt across the entire workforce - casual and permanent workers alike. 

In this extended commentary, Senior Economist Alison Pennington explains the main components of the IR Omnibus Bill, assesses their impacts on workers' wages and labour protections, and offers some strategic analysis on how labour advocates can work towards addressing insecure work. 

This commentary was originally published in Jacobin. A shorter edited version was published in Michael West Media & John Menadue's Pearls and Irritations. 

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Profile: Combining Economics and Social Justice

The Centre for Future Work's Director Dr. Jim Stanford was recently profiled in a feature article published in In The Black, the journal of CPA Australia (the professional body for certified accountants in Australia). The profile, by journalist Johanna Leggatt, discusses the history of the Centre for Future Work, and Stanford's philosophy of using popular economic knowledge to strengthen movements for social change and workers' rights.

We are pleased to reprint, with kind permission from In the Black, this profile, titled 'The People's Economist'. Many thanks to the journal and to Ms. Leggatt for the generous article!


A Women’s Agenda for COVID-Era Reconstruction

Women have been uniquely and disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting recession: losing more jobs and hours, shouldering a higher unpaid caring work burden, and undertaking essential and frontlines jobs. Without targeted action to rebuild women's jobs and ease caring demands, decades of collective advances toward decent paid work could be eroded.

Alison Pennington, Senior Economist with the Centre for Future Work assisted The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) preparing the timely report Leaving Women Behind: The Real Cost of the COVID Recovery. The report documents the gendered impacts of the crisis and the federal government's COVID-era policies, and outlines a public investment strategy to undo the damage of the crisis, and ensure women play an equal role in an inclusive economic recovery.

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Porter IR Bill a Wish List for Business

Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter tabled an omnibus bill on 9 December containing multiple amendments to Australia's labour laws, including the Fair Work Act. In theory, the bill is the outcome of a series of IR reform discussions the government launched during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time it heralded a new spirt of cooperation between business, unions, and the government -- but that spirit didn't last long. The bill accepts numerous business demands that will further liberalise casual work, undermine genuine collective bargaining, and generally suppress wages even more than they already are.

This commentary is a longer version of an assessment of the new legislation prepared by Jim Stanford (originally published in The Conversation).

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The Pandemic is Our Clarion Call to Rebuild Good Jobs

Victorians emerging from lockdowns now confront Australia's harsh COVID-era work reality marked by more insecure jobs, mass unemployment, and long-term work at the kitchen table.

In this commentary, which originally appeared in The AgeCentre for Future Work Senior Economist Alison Pennington discusses what the pandemic reveals about Australia's high levels of insecure work, new work-from-home risks, and how rebuilding more secure labour markets will be critical to creating more good jobs in our post-COVID recovery. 

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Feature Interviews: Worker Voice in a Changing World of Work

The Centre for Future Work's Jim Stanford, and Alison Pennington feature in a collection of interviews on technology, work, climate, and the role of unions, for  a new online course Power, Politics and Influence at Work delivered by the University of Manchester, UK.

Video recordings of the interviews are available here:

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Budget's Illusory Hope for Business-Led Recovery

The Commonwealth government tabled its 2020-21 budget on 6 October, six months later than the usual timing because of the dramatic events associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting recession. There is no doubt it is a budget unlike any other in Australia’s postwar history. While the budget certainly unleashes unprecedented fiscal power, its underlying logic and specific policy design are unsatisfactory in many ways. We present here analysis and commentary on several aspects of the budget, drawing on input from all of the Centre’s research staff: Economist and Director Dr. Jim Stanford, Senior Economist Alison Pennington, and Economist Dan Nahum.

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Webinar: How TAFE Can Drive Australia's Skills and Jobs Recovery

With millions facing unemployment and crisis-accelerated job transitions, public investment in the skills and earning capabilities of Australians will be critical to our post-pandemic recovery. 

To mark National TAFE Day and the release of new research by the Centre for Future Work on the economic and social benefits of the TAFE system, The Australia Institute hosted a timely discussion on how the TAFE system can drive a COVID-era skills and jobs recovery with ACTU President Michele O'Neil, Correna Haythorpe, federal president of the Australian Education Union, and Alison Pennington, Senior Economist at the Centre for Future Work. 

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Victorian Inquiry Offers Novel Routes to Regulating Gig Work

Findings from a landmark inquiry commissioned by the Andrews Victorian government into the work conditions in the “on demand” (gig) economy have been released. The report’s findings are timely with COVID-era unemployment surging and an expanding pool of vulnerable workers relying on “gig” work to meet living costs. 

This commentary published through Medium outlines the key findings of the On-Demand Inquiry.

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