Scott Morrison has flagged the possibility that companies may force workers to use annual leave during coronavirus shutdowns, but unions warn a plan to help casuals is urgent to stop the spread of the disease.
Declaring that “we’ve all got our role to play”, the Prime Minister said he expected employers to ask staff to use their annual leave but also flagged the option of using any quarantine period to hold training courses at home.
Asked if the world was overreacting to the coronavirus threat, Mr Morrison referenced the weekend’s toilet paper fracas at a Sydney supermarket, involving three women.
It ended in police charges and a viral video.
“If you look at the supermarkets at Chullora, you could quickly come to that conclusion,” he said.
“That’s why I think it is important that we get this into perspective.
“This has a fixed life. This virus, it will run its course.
“And it’s important we do things while we address it that do not impede a longer-term position. In fact, use the time for training, skills development, investment.”
But the Prime Minister also clearly stated that using up annual leave might be one way companies used periods of workplace shutdowns and quarantine.
“I know that many companies will ask staff to take their built-up leave during this period of time,” he said.
“There are many things companies can do to work together with their employees, to work through this.
“As I said, we’re all in this together and we’ve all got a role to play.”
- ASX rebounds after Trump’s virus stimulus package
- Qantas slashes seats, exec pay in COVID-19 fallout
- Miley Cyrus cancels grand prix concert, but race will go ahead
Speaking after a meeting of unions, business leaders and government on Tuesday, ACTU secretary Sally McManus told The New Daily that the pressures on casual workers were immense and could lead to workers shunning testing for the virus.
“Any response that does not stop casual workers from being financially penalised for doing the right thing, getting tested and isolating will totally fail,” Ms McManus said.
“Many will avoid getting tested and will go to work sick and this will spread the virus, especially as they are working in industries such as healthcare, retail and hospitality.”
Attorney-General Christian Porter has offered no firm indications yet as to the assistance the government might offer casual workers.
“The challenges that will be faced by casual workers and the challenges that will be faced by businesses that employ casual workers are clearly one of the things that needs to be considered,” Mr Porter said.
“We listened very carefully to what the unions have had to say, obviously, but they certainly weren’t the only voice in the room.”
Mr Morrison also predicted that governments would be forced to draw on more part-time nurses and aged-care workers to fill shortages.
“It’s very possible that we’re going to have to see, and I know state governments are going to be working closely on this, to draw more part-time nurses into more full-time nurses in the weeks and months ahead,” he said.
Despite warning before the 2019 election that a change of government could lead to a recession, the Prime Minister said he did not want to be drawn on the ‘R’ word.
“I don’t find speculation on those things terribly helpful,” he said.