Union claims Australians should be paid a universal basic income of $740 a week to help them survive the coronavirus crisis – even if they’re not looking for work

  • United Workers Union wants everyone to be paid $740 a week during pandemic
  • Coronavirus could put two million people out of work and is crushing economy
  • Also wants rent and mortgage payments suspended until after coronavirus 
  • Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?

One of the largest unions in Australia is calling for a universal basic income of $740 a week for the duration of the coronavirus crisis.

United Workers Union national secretary Tim Kennedy is pushing for a nationwide ‘jobs guarantee’ that would keep Australians in work.

Under the scheme, employers would not be allowed to dismiss or retrench workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

The government would guarantee their wages once they return to work when restrictions are lifted and the economy recovers. 

Those not covered by the jobs guarantee would be paid at the full-time minimum wage of $740 a week until the end of 2020.

‘The payment is unconditional, meaning the recipient is not required to work or demonstrate willingness to work, nor is the payment means-tested,’ Mr Kennedy told The Age.

‘Market logics of profit maximisation and unequal distribution must be discarded.’ 

The UWU reporesents hotels, casinos, warehouses, farms, hospitality, and health workers. 

Universal Basic Income is controversial due to arguments it removes the incentive to get a job and contribute to the economy.

Even unions have historically opposed the concept, but Mr Kennedy has decided that desperate times call fro such measures.

The $750 would be $200 a week more than the doubled unemployment payments the government brought in on Sunday in response to the crisis.

Mr Kennedy also wants energy, health, telecommunications, transport, and early childhood education nationalised, the tax-free threshold raised from $18,200 to $25,000, and rent and mortgage payments suspended.

ACTU secretary Sally McManus earlier this week warned two million Australians would be out of work as result of the pandemic.

She started a petition, signed by 15,000 people, calling for the government to provide wage subsidies of up to $5200 a month for each worker, like in Britain. 

Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter rejected the proposal and defended Centrelink payments being the right way to support laid-off workers.

‘The lessons that Treasury and the governments learned during the GFC is that if you step outside the normal realms of delivery mechanisms, you run into all sorts of problems,’ he said.

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