Government scales back ‘Work for the Dole’ program in MYEFO

The federal government has announced a significant roll back of it’s ‘Work for the Dole program’ in the  Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook.

The Australian reports:

The government is walking away from its flagship Work for the Dole scheme and will save $127 million by restricting the program and its contingent intensive support to unemployed people under 25.

The money will be recouped over three years from the program that was at one stage due to have 150,000 participants across the country.

The relevant announcement can be read on pages 166-7 of the MYEFO paper:

The Government will achieve savings of $126.4 million over three years from 2016-17 by focusing intensive services on job seekers who are aged under 25 and job ready. …

Intensive services involve a requirement for monthly appointments with jobactive providers and participation in
Work for the Dole.

There are a number of things worth noting about this announcement. Any scale back of the government’s appalling ‘Work for the Dole’ project is obviously welcome news. That said, the infrastructure for a future expanded ‘Work for the Dole’ remains in place, and it will continue to disrupt and control the lives of younger unemployed workers.

The fight to completely dismantle ‘Work for the Dole’ and other punitive welfare policies continues.

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Media Coverage: ‘Dole stoush’

Media coverage of the recent forum in Wonthaggi from The Star:

SCHEMES designed to make people work for the dole do not benefit unemployed people, a forum in Wonthaggi heard last Tuesday (August 11).

Former Wonthaggi woman Rebecca Winter from the Dole Action Group said the Federal Government’s new jobactive scheme was simply raising revenue.

From July 1 this year, unemployed people are forced to do 15-25 hours of unpaid work each week for non-profit organisations to receive the dole.

Ms Winter’s group believed the government spent about $1.3 billion a year on funding Job Services Australia providers.

“We think Work for the Dole is a failed, pointless policy that punishes unemployed people,” she said.

“It has been shown Work for the Dole does not work and often it hinders unemployed people from finding jobs because of the time involved in taking part in the scheme.”

Ms Winter was a speaker at the Work for the Dole community forum that was advertised as promoting changes to work for the dole rules: “What are they, do they affect you and what can we do about it?”

Read more on The Star’s website here.

the-star

Media Coverage: Jobactive could exploit unemployed

Report on Dole Action involvement in a community forum in Wonthaggi, from the South Gippsland Sentinel, 18 August.

Report on Dole Action involvement in a community forum in Wonthaggi, from the South Gippsland Sentinel, 18 August.

In plain text:

Jobactive could exploit unemployed

FRUSTRATED job seekers have raised concerns over “unfair” new work for the dole requirements, relaunched by the Federal Government last month under the banner ‘Jobactive’.

Around half a dozen unemployed or underemployed locals gathered at Wonthaggi’s Mitchell House last week to share their thoughts with representatives from two local job agencies.

Under the new rules, job seekers under the age of 30 are required to complete 25 hours per week of a work for the dole activity for six months each year.

Those over 30 are only required to log 15 hours of similar work per week, all while searching for paid employment.

One of the attendees, Jessica Harrison, said she was concerned to recently learn that Jobactive allows privately-run employment service providers to suspend welfare payments and even fine job seekers who miss appointments.

She said there was a distinct lack of “social justice”.

“I see a lot of people around Wonthaggi who are doing their best to find meaningful work and they should be able to work real hours for real wages, not for the dole,” Ms Harrison said.

One job seeker who took part in the 90-minute information session described the process as “ridiculous”, claiming she had been told by her job agency that, ideally, she needed to apply for 20 jobs per fortnight.

The woman said that in a regional area such as Bass Coast, it’s plain “impossible” to find so many vacant roles.

“Where are all these jobs,” she argued.

“If they were there I’d happily apply for them.”

Ripe for exploitation

Rebecca Winter, who attended the meeting on behalf of the Melbourne-based Work for the Dole Action Group, said the government’s unpaid employment policy “simply does not work” and provides “huge potential for exploitation”.

She said her group fears Australia is heading down the path of ending up like the United Kingdom, where unpaid workers have reportedly been exploited by large organisations.

“Work for the dole is a push towards where we don’t want to end up,” Ms Winter said.

She claimed she had heard from many Jobactive participants who have been given roles in the construction industry, which clearly goes against policy rules which state work for the dole activities ‘must not involve tasks which would normally be done by a paid worker, including a casual or part-time paid employee’.

Ms Winter said such exploitation of Jobactive could have dire consequences, including undermining minimum wage levels.

‘There are real jobs and people working them need a real wage,” she said.

Ms Winter said Jobactive policy rules “do not translate to reality”, with many host employers taking advantage of free labour.

“We are determined to get rid of the policy in general,” she added.

Wonthaggi Neighbourhood Centre coordinator, Jan Bourne, summed up last week’s session with just a few words.

“It paints a pretty bleak picture,” she said.

“This discussion is a reflection of the inadequacy of the system all over the country.”

Ms Bourne said she would write to McMillan MP Russell Broadbent about concerns raised during the meeting and would look into forming a welfare rights service for Wonthaggi.

Anyone seeking information about Jobactive can visit http://www.employment.gov.au/work-dole

Leaflet – The Salvation Army and Work for the Dole: Exploiting the unemployed

Check out the new leaflet (download as PDF) we’ll be handing out as part of our Week of Action against the Salvation Army for their role in implementing the government’s Work for the Dole policy. Feel free to print off and distribute your own copies. Get in touch with us if you would like to find out more about our campaign against Work for the Dole or would like support doing leafleting in your own area.

The Salvation Army and Work for the Dole’: Exploiting the unemployed

Salvos shield Forced Unpaid Labour

Work for the Dole

The Salvation Army is a key participant in the Liberal Government’s new Work for the Dole scheme. Work for the Dole forces unemployed people to work without pay for non-profit organisations (like charities). You either work for free, or you are kicked off unemployment payments, and forced to survive on no income at all. From July 2015, unemployed people under 30 will be forced to do 25 hours of unpaid work per week, while 30-50’s will be made to do 15 hours. This means tens of thousands of unemployed people across Australia will be forced to work without pay or starve.

The Work for the Dole scheme only functions because ‘host organisations’ like the Salvation Army agree to exploit unemployed people. Organisations like the Salvation Army will receive government subsidies of thousands of dollars for taking part in Work for the Dole. They benefit from the unpaid labour of unemployed people and help normalise unpaid work, which drags down the wages of all workers. Taking part in Work for the Dole means that the Salvation Army will be directly responsible for cutting people off unemployment payments by reporting whether they show up and do what they are told. For example, if someone misses a Work for the Dole shift they could be breached.

Forced labour

As part of their ‘Freedom Partnership’ campaign, the Salvation Army say they oppose forms of exploitative work which involve “using people against their will for their own profit or advantage.” They say they are against the use of forced labour. They admit that exploitative businesses force people to work through threats, prevent them from leaving their workplace, pay them little or no money for their work, and leave them “isolated, degraded and humiliated.”

The Salvation Army say they oppose this forced labour, but what about the rights of unemployed people forced to take part in Work for the Dole? No person should be subject to a system of involuntary labour, let alone involuntary labour for unemployment payments already well below the poverty line. Forcing people to work against their will, in places they don’t want to work, and where they have little control over their work, is exploitative and unfair. It is a way of punishing unemployed people, not helping them. It also undermines the wages and conditions of all workers by setting a dangerous standard where some workers work for free.

Work for the Dole doesn’t work

The Salvation Army Southern Territory Social Justice Secretary publicly admits that: “Some individuals find the [Work for the Dole] activities considered boring and ineffective.” But they go on to say that Work for the Dole is effective because “the prospect of having to engage in 6 months of a structured WfD activity is all the motivation needed for a jobseeker to go out and get a job.”

But countless studies have shown that being made to do Work for the Dole actually makes it harder to get a job. Jeff Borland and Yi-Ping Tseng from the University of Melbourne found that unemployed people who were forced to do Work for the Dole were significantly less likely to be able to find work when compared with unemployed people who did not take part.

Being forced to complete busy work to keep a meagre Centrelink payment does nothing to build skills. Being forced to ‘volunteer’ to keep your Centrelink payment makes life even harder for those with caring responsibilities. It takes up time that would be better spent studying, training or looking for paid work. There is also evidence that employers discriminate against people who put Work for the Dole on their resume.

Not enough  jobs

There are also not enough jobs to go around in the first place. According to ABS data, in September 2014 there were 156,000 job vacancies in Australia. At the same time there were 750,000 people out of work. If you factor in the high number of under-employed people, an estimated 920,000 in July 2014, there are ten job seekers competing for each job vacancy in Australia. We need real support for unemployed people, not expensive, failed approaches that blame us for things outside our control.

What can we do about it?

The Dole Action Group is grassroots organisation of unemployed people and their supporters. We are calling on all non-profit organisations to boycott Work for the Dole and keep volunteering voluntary.

Our key goals are:

  • To fight for liveable unemployed payments (above the poverty line) for all people.
  • To abolish Centrelink participation requirements.
  • To stop unemployed people being used as a source of unpaid forced labour.

We have the power to abolish Work for the Dole by putting real pressure on the government and the organisations which enforce their policies.

If you have a tip off about a Work for the Dole provider, would like to join us or find out more, you can contact us in the following ways:

Email: doleaction@gmail.com

On the web: http://doleaction.org

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/doleactiongroup

Twitter: @doleaction

Work for the Dole template letter

Does your local council, favorite Op Shop or other local NGO intend to exploit unemployed workers on the government’s Work for the Dole program? Why not ask them and find out?

The Dole Action Group has prepared the following template letter for you to modify and use. Please change anything about it to suit your needs.

[Name and title of contact]
[Council/NGO/Charity]
[Organisation address]

Dear [Contact name],

I am [details of your relationship to the organisation, eg. “a resident in the City of…”]. I are writing to you about the Federal Government’s new Work for the Dole scheme, which as you probably know is being significantly expanded in July to job-seekers aged under 50 who have been receiving welfare payments for more than six months.

Will your organisation be participating in this policy and using people required to do Work for the Dole in any of its projects and services?

I respect [organisations name] commitment and ongoing work towards creating a fairer society. I share your commitment to [most relevant statement of the organisations values from their mission statement or alike].

It is with this in mind that I ask [organisations name] to commit to not taking part in the Government’s Work for the Dole scheme. Work for the Dole fundamentally undermines the spirit of volunteering in our communities. I believe that we should keep volunteering voluntary.

Work for the Dole is unfair and discriminatory for the following reasons:

1) Volunteering Victoria has stated that Work for the Dole is “problematic” under the definition of volunteering as “an activity undertaken of the volunteer’s own free will and without coercion.”[1] Work for the Dole is a mandatory program that compels participation under threat of the loss of a job seeker’s welfare payment. Its coercive nature undermines the spirit of volunteerism and is likely to alienate long-standing volunteers, leading to a loss of skills and experience.

2) No person should be subject to a system of involuntary labour, let alone involuntary labour for welfare payments already well below the poverty line. Unemployed workers choosing to do valuable work in our communities should be remunerated for their efforts and have access to a real income, which the Government has the capacity to provide. This would result in stronger community organisations, and would reduce both welfare poverty and the unemployment rate.

1) The government states that Work for the Dole is about ‘getting people into work’, but many studies, including some commissioned by the Australian Federal Government, show that this is not the case. Jeff Borland and Yi-Ping Tseng from the University of Melbourne recorded the experiences of 860 Newstart recipients aged 18-24 taking part in Work for the Dole in 1997-1998.[2] They found that “quite large significant adverse effects of participation in Work for the Dole” for job seekers. Unemployed people who were required to do Work for the Dole were significantly less likely to be able to find work than job seekers who did not participate.

2) Australian Department of Employment data shows that – for job-seekers in 2013 – only 19.8 per cent of participants in Work for the Dole schemes found a full-time or part-time job within three months. Work for the Dole has a poorer track-record than other pathways to work, such as training.[3] Being forced to ‘volunteer’ to keep your Centrelink payment makes life even harder for those bringing up children or caring for sick or elderly relatives. It takes up time that would be better spent studying, training or looking for paid work. There is also evidence that employers discriminate against people who put Work for the Dole on their resume.

3) Work for the Dole represents a threat to the jobs of people who work in local government and the community sector, by replacing some of the roles typically filled by paid workers with unpaid labourers.

4) The government makes Work for the Dole attractive for community organisations by offering financial incentives. We know many community organisations struggle to fund their work, but acceptance of Work for the Dole incentives would compromise your organisation’s values, reputation and independence.

5) Solutions to unemployment require an acknowledgement of the lack of jobs that exist. According to ABS date, in September 2014 there were 156,000 job vacancies in Australia. At the same time there are 750,000 people out of work. If you factor in the high number of under-employed, an estimated 920,000 in July 2014, there are ten job seekers competing for each job vacancy in Australia.[5] We need real job creation, instead of expensive, failed approaches that blame job-seekers for things outside their control.

This unfair policy can only be opposed through a combined refusal to participate in Work for the Dole. I invite your organisation to commit to not taking part in the Government’s Work for the Dole scheme and to keep volunteering voluntary.

I intend to encourage members, supporters, welfare claimants and the general public more broadly to support organisations who have committed to keep volunteering voluntary.

I look forward to hearing from you and establishing a dialogue with you on this question.

Yours sincerely,

[Your name]
[Your group and contact details]

[1] http://volunteeringvictoria.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/WFTD-position-statement-REVISED-5-Feb-15.pdf
[2] http://cf.fbe.unimelb.edu.au/staff/jib/documents/wfdwp.pdf
[3] http://www.uniya.org/research/mo_martyn_mar06.pdf
[5] http://unemploymentunion.com.au/myth-4/

You can forward any interesting responses you get to this letter to doleaction at gmail dot com.

Work for the Dole: What you can learn from a job advert

max-screwing-you-over

The Saturday Paper recently reported that:

Nearly half of the Work for the Dole co-ordinator contracts tendered by the federal government have been awarded to two giant corporations, including one in a joint venture with a major Australian charity.

One of the big two is Max Employment, a company known for persecuting disabled job seekers in the UK.

Now that they’ve got the contracts they’ve started advertising for people to do the dirty work of persecuting people on Work for the Dole, and it’s amazing what you can learn about the coming Work for the Dole scheme from a single job ad.

Max Employment are advertising for ‘Work for the Dole Field Officers’, a role basically responsible for ensuring there are Work for the Dole places to put the legions of unemployed Abbott is forcing into unpaid work.

1. Max Employment expect people will get hurt

It seems the Work for the Dole coordinator has a significant role on the WHS side of things (we’ve previously highlighted concerns that Work for the Dole labour wont be properly protected by WHS law and WorkCover).

The duties of a Work for the Dole field officer include:

Undertake, review and update risk assessments and develop risk mitigation strategies for all activities

Timely and appropriate management, investigation and reporting of activity related incidents

Work in horticulture, hospitality or aged care can be dangerous enough for staff with appropriate pay and training. People are going to get hurt and the providers know it.

2. Work for the Dole will displace paid work

The W4D field officer is expected to:

Develop and negotiate project proposals, contracts and agreements appropriate to WfD activities (as lead or sole Employment Provider)

And in order to do this they will need to be able to:

Ability to identify and develop WfD activities linked to labour market trends, employer requirements and job seeker needs

‘Labour market trends’ and ’employer requirements’ are barely even euphemisms for “We aren’t even going to come close to placing this many people unless we can figure out where the demand for labour is going to be and then shove W4D forced labour into the gap”.

Fields such as aged care are presently areas of growing paid employment, admittedly at atrociously low rates of pay. The rate of pay is going to get even lower as Work for the Dole ‘volunteers’ are directed to aged care homes and alike.

3. There’s a lot of money to be made in forcing the unemployed to work for free

Max Employment know that screwing over the unemployed is big business and they are keen to let you know it to!

Why join the MAX team? … Participation in competitive bonus schemes for individual and team performance … We are committed to a high performance, engaging team culture and investing in our people enables a rewarding career with MAX. If you have what we are looking for, do not delay – APPLY NOW.

(Emphasis added)

Profiteers like Max Employment have to be stopped. We can break the Work for the Dole scheme, but we need your help. Get in touch to get involved.

Green Army or Work for the Dole – What about safety?

As we approach the implementation of the government’s expanded Work for the Dole program in July, a serious question that is not being addressed is safety.

Workers in traditional work are protected by a rafts of OHS legislation, work place insurance, and most importantly union rights. Workers compelled to participate in Work-for-the-Dole and similar programs will not have the same protections.

Crikey and others raised questions about this last year, questions which remain open:

The 15,000 young people who intend to work in the Coalition’s “Green Army” will have no protections against racial, religious, sex or other forms of discrimination during their six months in the program, and will not be protected by workplace bullying provisions.

Fairfax newspapers revealed on the weekend that under the Social Security Legislation (Green Army Programme) Amendment Bill 2014, participants would be paid as little as half the minimum wage for working up to 30 hours a week. OH&S and other workplace protections would not be available because participants would be exempted from the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, the Safety Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988, and, most importantly, the Fair Work Act.

Have you been injured on a work-for-the-dole placement? Get in touch and tell us your story.