The line up outside Gladstone Centrelink after coronavirus announcements and a MyGov crash, on March 23, 2020.
The line up outside Gladstone Centrelink after coronavirus announcements and a MyGov crash, on March 23, 2020.

Casual Gladstone employees on JobKeeper gravy train

A LONG-term Gladstone business owner is working 12-hour days, seven days a week, because his casual staff on JobKeeper are regularly not turning up for their shifts.

The man, who asked not to be named, said he can’t afford to employ only full-time staff, as his business would not remain financially viable.

JobKeeper payments are part of government COVID-19 economic stimulus incentives to keep people employed, but the business owner says many employees are rorting the system.

Under JobKeeper, employers apply to the government to receive $1500 per fortnight for full time employees and $750 a fortnight for part time or casual workers.

Small businesses must show their turnover has reduced by more than 30 per-cent to qualify.

The payments were recently reviewed by treasury and will be scaled back to $1200 per fortnight for ful- time staff from September 28.

From January until March 28, payments will be again scaled back to $1000 per fortnight for staff working more than 20 hours a week and $500 for those working less.

The business owner said casuals were riding the government’s gravy train and don’t care about their jobs.

“They are getting government money so they don’t want to turn up,” he said.

“They don’t give me any notice except a phone call just before their shift starts then I’m stuck.”

Despite the COVID pandemic, since health restrictions had been lifted, the business owner said things had definitely picked up.

He said JobKeeper is a catch 22 situation because it keeps people employed, but then they aren’t motivated to work because they don’t need to.

“Small business is doing pretty well since COVID restriction have been lifted,” he said.

“But the government screws you all the time.

“The small business owner could screw the government, but I play by the book and always have.”

Federal Member for Flynn Ken O'Dowd said there are strict measures in place to ensure employees don’t take advantage of the JobKeeper system. Picture: Rodney Stevens.
Federal Member for Flynn Ken O'Dowd said there are strict measures in place to ensure employees don’t take advantage of the JobKeeper system. Picture: Rodney Stevens.

After starting at the bottom of the food chain as an employee, the man said when he opened his first business he worked two jobs to pay a business loan at 17.5 per-cent, just to survive.

“The people these days have no idea about working hard to get ahead,” he said.

“If you add up all the taxes we pay as small businesses to the government we get screwed and actually earn a very modest wage for the hours we work.

“I worked seven days a week last year, every week, and I can’t get a pension because I’m classed as earning too much money.

“Why do people have more rights because they get an education and then a job, than small business owners.

“We are the ones who employ people and keep the economies rolling in places like Gladstone, then we still get screwed by the government for doing that.”

Federal Flynn PM Ken O’Dowd urged any businesses who were experiencing similar situations to contact his office.

He said JobKeeper payments were paid in arrears to employers, who could choose to not pass them on to employees in such cirucmstances, and report any people taking advantage of the scheme to the Australian Taxation Office.

“The JobKeeper Payment contains robust integrity features and draws on the existing regulatory and enforcement infrastructure of the Australian Taxation Office (ATO),” Mr O’Dowd said.

“These integrity features range from the eligibility requirements to specific rules to address contrived schemes and fraud.

“These requirements are in addition to the existing administrative and civil penalties and criminal offences that apply in the taxation law and general criminal law.

“These measures will not affect taxpayers that do the right thing, but will allow for swift and effective action to be taken against those that seek to abuse the scheme and obtain more than their entitlements.”

Mr O’Dowd said businesses should visit The Federal Treasury and Australian Taxation Office websites for the latest jobkeeper information.