Casual Workers Are Calling On Govt To Reintroduce COVID Disaster Payments If They Test Positive


Folks in the hospitality and retail industries are calling on the federal government to bring back the $750 disaster payment. Industry spokespeople argue that with the rising number of COVID cases in Australia, it’s becoming harder for workers to stay safe while still earning a living.

As of June 30, Australians without sick leave can no longer access the $750 disaster payment. While it was still available, the cash allowed workers to take time off work to recover from COVID during their government-mandated seven day isolation.

With active cases across the nation nearly totalling 300,000, the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union have joined service industry representatives in calling for the reintroduction of the disaster payment.

Inner Sydney Barista Julian O’Neill said “a lot of us (hospitality workers) live week-to-week… If you are sick, and you’re not working full time, so you don’t get sick leave, you miss out on money for groceries, rent, bills, just life,” as per the Sydney Morning Herald.

Head of Restaurant and Catering Australia Belinda Clarke also told the SMH that if the payments weren’t brought back “there could be an increased spread of COVID-19 among hospitality staff which would strain the labour force in our industry”.

In response, the federal government’s Emergency Management Minister Murray Watt defended the decision.

“It was the decision of the Morrison government to end the temporary Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment on June 30 and the new government is confirming that decision,” Watt said as per the ABC.

“The requirements for when people need to isolate, and for how long, have been significantly reduced since the payment was introduced,” the minister said.

Despite the lifting of close contact isolation requirements,  the isolation period for COVID-positive Aussies is still seven days.

In Victoria hospitality and other casual workers can access five days of sick leave. However in other states, the ending of the $750 disaster payment will no doubt cause stress for many workers.

The news comes just weeks after it was announced that the wages of Australia’s minimum wage workers would increase in line with inflation.

In June Fair Work Commission handed down its decision to raise the minimum wage by 5.2 per cent after strong pushes from the Labor Government and workers’ rights groups.

Commission President Iain Ross announced that the minimum wage would go up from $20.33 to $21.38 an hour, or from $772.60 to $812.60 per week.