PUSHED to their limit by what they say is unfair pressure to look for non-existent jobs, 16 people voted to form the Wonthaggi branch of the Australian Unemployed Workers Union at an Unemployed Rights workshop recently.
Participants came from as far away as Churchill and Phillip Island to discuss Work for the Dole, voluntary work and the mutual obligations of job seekers and service providers.
“We heard many heart-rending tales of people caught in the catch-22 of having to apply for jobs while suffering serious health conditions,” organiser Jessica Harrison said.
“There are now a number of groups formed to support people owing money after receiving incorrect Centrelink ‘debt’ notices and there are lawyers offering help.
“We are supporting people who are in this situation.
“We hope the new branch of the Australian Unemployed Workers Union will work towards a just outcome for everyone affected.”
Bass Coast Shire councillor Geoff Ellis attended the workshop and said for many years he has noted that Centrelink is increasing the burden on recipients while decreasing the amenity of the service.
“Long queues and lengthy phone calls are now standard,” he said.
“The smaller towns in our region have no permanent offices so people must attend pop-up offices or use phone and internet services to provide information and complete forms.
“Many of the people are now being confronted by the imposition of an alleged debt and the consequent inquisition is not well served by technology.
“If they don’t have a computer or an internet connection they have to use their local library as a de facto Centrelink office.
“With the decline of full time employment, increase of casual work and general under-employment, the trend towards income top-up payments is increasing.
“Manufacturing jobs are now few and far between and locally there is constant pressure on dairy farmers to reduce labour through automation.
“A large number of us are likely to interact with Centrelink at some stage. People need to be treated with respect and fairly guided through the process.”
AUWU’s Owen Bennet welcomed the Wonthaggi branch, which is the 41st local branch of the union.
Unsure of your rights and obligations?
Need help or just want to share the burden?
The first meeting for the Wonthaggi branch of the Australian Unemployed Workers Union will be held on Monday, March 6 at 1pm at Wonthaggi Neighbourhood House, 6 Murray Street, Wonthaggi.
Kids are welcome.