Wage subsidy plan for millions of workers passes lower house

(Australian Associated Press)

 

WHAT’S HAPPENING?

Wage subsidies designed to save six million jobs are one step closer after passing the first hurdle of a scaled-back federal parliament.

Draft legislation underpinning the $130 billion JobKeeper scheme is on its way to the Senate after passing the lower house on Wednesday afternoon.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the scheme was the biggest economic lifeline in the nation’s history, designed to protect jobs during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Today is not about ideologies. We check those at the door,” he told parliament.

“Today is about defending and protecting Australia’s national sovereignty.”

HOW DOES THE JOBKEEPER PAYMENT WORK?

  • Businesses will receive $1500 every fortnight for all employees over six months
  • Employers will be legally obligated to pass the money on to their workers
  • The tax office will administer the payments, which are worth $130 billion
  • The scheme is designed to maintain links between bosses and workers during the coronavirus pandemic
  • An estimated six million jobs could be saved
  • Changes to the Fair Work Act will allow employers to reduce people’s pay to $1500 a fortnight, provided hours are adjusted accordingly
  • The Fair Work Commission will be able to resolve disputes.

WHO IS ELIGIBLE?

  • All full-time and part-time employees, along with casuals with a one-year link to their employer
  • Sole traders and New Zealanders on 444 working visas are also included
  • Businesses with at least a 30 per cent hit to turnover because of coronavirus
  • If a company’s turnover is more than $1 billion, a 50 per cent downturn is required
  • Charities with a 15 per cent drop in turnover will be included
  • Workers who normally earn less than $1500 a fortnight will still receive the full subsidy.

WHAT DO LABOR AND UNIONS WANT?

  • The definition of casual worker broadened to stop 1.1 million people missing out
  • ACTU secretary Sally McManus wants the payment extended to all casuals who expected work over the next 12 months
  • Labor wants the payment administered through the Fair Work Commission rather than temporary changes to the Fair Work Act
  • The opposition and unions are concerned some employers may exploit changes to employment law.

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