Unions will ask the federal government for compensation for casual workers who don’t get paid sick leave.
The government is preparing a multi-billion dollar stimulus package to offset the impact of coronavirus on the economy.
ACTU secretary Sally McManus said the package must address the financial risk to Australia’s 3.3 million casual workers in retail, hospitality, health and aged care, who will lose pay if they get sick.
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“We don’t want people with virus or people with symptoms going to work, but they are going to have to choose between paying the bills and feeding themselves or going to work,” she told Nine’s Today program on Monday.
Ms McManus noted other countries impacted by the virus were guaranteeing that casual workers wouldn’t be penalised if they had to self isolate.
“It should be just paid leave,” she said, with employers compensated later on.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg says the package will be scalable, hinting further measures will be in the federal budget.
“We will have a very comprehensive and very substantial package designed to support the Australian economy through this economic shock,” he told Sky News.
“It’s about keeping businesses in business and Australians in jobs.”
Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter will meet union and business heads in Sydney on Tuesday to discuss how to keep key industries – including food and pharmaceuticals – operating at full capacity during the crisis.
“It’s vitally important that we are all working towards the same goal,” Mr Porter said.
Cabinet will also meet on Tuesday to consider the package, with an announcement likely later in the week.
The economic stimulus package is expected to be worth as much as $10 billion.
Business is calling for tax relief and a regulation and red tape “holiday”.
The government may consider reducing deeming rates for pensioners, giving local councils funding for small projects and an expansion of instant asset write-offs for businesses.
The spread of the virus, although not rampant, has already caused panic buying of toilet paper across the country.
Some 75 Australians have been confirmed as having the virus, which has so far killed three elderly people. Most of the cases are in NSW.
Opposition health spokesman Chris Bowen said Labor would support a “sensible” direct household stimulus package, similar to the payments Australians received under the Rudd government during the global financial crisis.
Labor’s shadow cabinet will meet to consider its stance on the government’s plan once the detail is announced.
© AAP 2020