Unions urge changes to 'flawed' JobMaker

Rebecca Gredley
·2-min read

Unions and business groups are calling for changes to the Morrison government's JobMaker scheme to ensure it gives workers certainty and is simple for employers.

Potential issues around age discrimination were also raised at a Senate inquiry into the scheme's underpinning legislation.

Businesses are paid for hiring young people through the program, at a rate of $200 a week for employees aged 16 to 29 and $100 a week for people between the age of 30 and 35.

Australian Council of Trade Unions president Michele O'Neil is worried about older employees having their hours and therefore wages cut to make room for younger workers.

The ACTU is urging the government to tweak the scheme so affected workers have access to arbitration through the Fair Work Commission.

"It's a great shame that this program is so flawed," Ms O'Neil told senators on Monday.

"The JobMaker hiring credit was an opportunity to start building the economy back in a positive manner, prioritising long-term secure jobs that could deliver Australian workers the one thing they all need this year more than ever - certainty.

"What is being delivered appears to do the opposite."

Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry's Jenny Lambert doesn't expect companies to significantly change their teams because of the program.

"The idea that an employer would cut back on their experienced workforce to take on somebody who's been unemployed and bring them into the business for the sake of $100 or $200 a week is highly unlikely except in very marginal situations."

The Council of Small Business Organisations Australia is working with Treasury to ensure the scheme is fit for purpose and helps reduce youth unemployment.

COSBOA chief Peter Strong says help for people looking for work should be place-based, and the training sector should be involved.

COSBOA has heard from some small businesses that the program needs to be simpler with a more attractive rate, otherwise companies won't be willing to take the risk of hiring more people.

The Morrison government promised to generate 450,000 jobs through the JobMaker program, but only 45,000 of jobs supported through the $4 billion hiring credit scheme will be new.

To be eligible, the new workers must have been receiving either JobSeeker, Youth Allowance or Parenting Payment for at least one of the three months before they are hired.

Senator Rex Patrick told Treasury officials about job advertisements asking people to apply only if they were eligible for the JobMaker scheme.

The officials wouldn't say if it was age discrimination but suggested it could fit within an exemption to discrimination laws as the ads were for a Commonwealth employment program.