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Issue #1693      July 15, 2015

White Paper whitewash for Indigenous workers

Northern Australian businesses will be able to exploit free Indigenous labour as a result of the Abbott government’s strategy to boost Indigenous workforce participation in remote communities.

The government’s White Paper on Developing Northern Australia outlines changes to the Remote Jobs and Communities Program (RJCP) forcing Indigenous job seekers to participate in Work for the Dole for a minimum of six months.

Workers will not receive a training/apprenticeship wage but the government will pay businesses for keeping Indigenous workers at the end of their placement.

Australian unions believe Work for the Dole is a punitive scheme that targets vulnerable workers and forces them into labour for below the minimum wage.

Unions are calling to end discriminatory employment practices for Indigenous workers and ensure workers are paid the legal minimum wages and benefits, such as superannuation and annual leave.

Unions will lobby the Abbott government to genuinely consult with Indigenous organisations and unions to develop equitable job programs which are self-determined and meet Australian industrial relations standards.

Only then economic growth will develop for Northern Australia.

Key facts:

  • 2,399 Indigenous workers were moved onto welfare after the Abbott government scrapped the Community Develop Employment Projects (CDEP) program which paid job seekers minimum wages and conditions
  • The Abbott government made $534 million in budget cuts to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander programs and services forcing many Indigenous workers onto welfare.

“The Abbott government’s White Paper is a whitewash and typical of its disgraceful attitude towards the Indigenous community,” said ACTU President Ged Kearney. “Instead of working with Indigenous communities, the government continues to punish them with a program that has failed to create long term, sustainable jobs.

“All work must be paid minimum wages, as well as the benefits of work, such as annual leave and superannuation. Employment initiatives must be based on real consultation, self-determination and an understanding of the unique position of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.”

Next article – Injustice is why we are Marxists”

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