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We have started this blog to focus on the impact of COVID-19 on the more marginalised and vulnerable people and communities with whom much of our research is concerned.

COVID-19 and Long-term Care
Sara Charlesworth | 29th of May, 2020

The COVID toll in aged care services has been devastating in many developed economies. A review of evidence by the International Long-Term Care policy network has found that the share of care home residents whose deaths have been linked to COVID-19 tends to be lower in countries where there have been fewer deaths in total. This is clearly the case in Australia where the COVID related death of aged care residents is 29% of all COVID related deaths. This is well below the rate for Canadian aged care homes which make up 82% of all COVID-19 deaths in that country. In the US, based on data from 45 of the 50 states, COVID-related deaths in care homes make up 41% of all COVID deaths. In the UK, care home deaths have only recently been included in national COVID data. In Scotland it is estimated that last week 55% of all COVID-related deaths occurred in care homes.

Reports on the impact of COVID-19 in long-term care have focused overwhelmingly on its impact in residential aged care. We know surprisingly little about what is happening to those frail older people who rely on home care services, although the Australian Department of Health has reported that as of May 18, there were three COVID related deaths among people who used publicly subsidised home care. While in the UK and US there has been some public recognition of the large numbers of hospital workers dying due to COVID 19, very little attention has been given to COVID related deaths of aged care workers. We do know, however, that by mid-May in England and Wales there had been some 136 COVID related deaths of social care workers, a death rate double that of the general population and indeed double that for NHS workers. To date there have been no aged care worker COVID-related deaths in Australia.

Clearly Australia’s public health response in long-term care has been exceptional in international comparison. While there have been some outliers such as Newmarch House in Western Sydney, early response and intervention has prevented the catastrophic outcomes seen in the UK, US and Canada. There has been widespread testing and transparency of information, with the names of aged care facilities, where even one resident or worker has contracted COVID, made public.

Once-off COVID government funding has also been provided to the sector.  For example, the federal government announced on March 20 that direct aged care workers will receive a ‘retention bonus’. Full-time residential care workers are to receive $800 for each of 2 quarters, that ending in June and that ending in September if they are still with their employer. Pro rata payments will be made to eligible part-time and casual workers.  Inexplicably, eligible home care workers will be paid only $600 on a pro rata basis for each quarter. Despite this initiative, a recent survey (run early May) by the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Association (ANMF) of just under 2000 aged care workers indicates that some 83% of respondents reported that their employer had not yet discussed this retention bonus with them.

Notwithstanding the excellent public health response here, COVID has exacerbated some severe structural issues in aged care sector.  Understaffing is a major issue in residential aged care as is the limiting of ‘time to care’ in home care services. In many ways, work organisation in aged care has been increasingly based on a lean, ‘just in time’ manufacturing model. Given this, what is baffling in the COVID era, however, is the loss of staffing and hours. Since the beginning of March 2020, the ANMF survey found 43% of respondents in home care reported staffing cuts, and in residential aged care almost a fifth reported recent cuts to staffing. Further, up to 80% of respondents in residential aged care reported that no staffing increases had occurred in preparation for a potential COVID-19 outbreak.  In home care, more than half the workers surveyed reported insufficient supply of PPE by their employer. Indeed staff working in the home-care sector were most likely to report not receiving recent information or training for PPE use.

We won’t ever have good quality aged care in Australia without addressing some fundamental decent work deficits in the sector, laid bare in the COVID crisis. We need wage rates that properly value the skills and experience used by aged care workers to ensure workers retention in the sector, not a once off retention bonus. We need to ensure far better working time security to provide the basis for the continuity and sustainability of care so critical in aged care.  Underemployment is already high in the aged care sector and yet during COVID many of these ‘essential’ workers have lost jobs and hours of work.

COVID-19 has shown that we need to build in decent conditions of work in long-term care, as well as the time, the staffing numbers and skill mix– not only to support the provision of high quality care, including social and emotional support for service users, but also to meet the regular demands of and the inevitable ‘regular irregularities’ that are part of the everyday life of aged care outside a pandemic.

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‘The Spirit of Australia’, just not in a pandemic: Qantas plays hard-ball on workers’ rights
Anthony Forsyth | 27th of May, 2020

Nine years ago, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce made himself a household name by embarking on a high-risk strategy in an industrial dispute that involved grounding the airline’s fleet globally.

Faced with months of flight disruptions from stoppages by the TWU (covering baggage handlers and refuelers) and the ALAEA (covering aircraft engineers) – and lower-level protests by the pilots’ union – Joyce rolled the dice.

He grounded the fleet ahead of a proposed lockout of the employees covered by the three unions, in a move calculated to have the then-Labor Government force the dispute into the Fair Work Commission (FWC).

The gamble paid off. Qantas’ main focus in the three sets of agreement negotiations had been to resist union claims to limit the airline’s ability to outsource and offshore parts of its operations. The resolution of each dispute (one by agreement, the other two by arbitration) saw the airline come out on top.[1]

This hard-ball approach can also be seen in the way Joyce has positioned Qantas in its handling of labour relations in response to COVID-19.

Qantas was the first major employer to stand down large numbers of staff (20,000 on 19 March,[2] and another 5,000 in early May[3]), as government restrictions to contain the virus ruled out most domestic and international travel.

The airline then denied stood down employees access to sick leave, a position it has defended successfully in the Federal Court. It has also adopted a combative approach to other employment flare-ups, challenging the jurisdiction of the FWC to deal with stand downs of engineers and a JobKeeper dispute.

The decisions in each of these cases, which were handed down this week, will now be considered.

  1. No sick leave for stood down Qantas staff

The interaction of the stand down provisions and personal leave provisions of the Fair Work Act is far from clear.

Qantas’ position is that there is no ‘work’ for employees who are subject to stand downs to be absent from. Therefore, there is no entitlement to paid sick leave under the Fair Work Act.

Justice Flick of the Federal Court of Australia upheld that argument in CEPU v Qantas Airways Ltd [2020] FCA 656 (18 May 2020).

Flick J observed that the purpose of employer stand down powers is to provide financial relief from the obligation to pay wages (where there is no work through no fault of the employer), and to protect employees from consequences that otherwise follow from termination of their services. The purpose of personal leave (including sick leave) is ‘a form of income protection’. Flick J resolved the contest between these two conflicting purposes as follows:

[31] … at the very heart of the ultimate conclusion, namely that an employee cannot access such leave entitlements whilst stood down, is the determination that such leave entitlements are an entitlement on the part of the employee to take leave from otherwise performing the work they are required to perform. It is the very characterisation of the leave entitlement conferred by s 96 as a “form of income protection” which presupposes that an employee is in receipt of income. As Qantas has repeatedly submitted, and correctly so, “‘income’ is not being protected if there is no available or required work from which to derive income in the first place”.

 

And further:

[35] … If there is no work available to be performed by the employee, there is no income and no protection against that which has not been lost. Conversely, to expose the employer to a liability to pay leave entitlements after lawfully having invoked the power to stand down an employee would defeat one of the two principal purposes of standing the employee down – namely, to protect the employer against such claims.

 

So, one of the purposes of stand downs wins out (relieving the employer of the liability to pay wages). Ignored in this conclusion are: (i) the other purpose of stand downs (protecting employees from adverse consequences); (ii) whether the purpose of sick leave (income protection for the employee who is unwell) could still be served in a stand down situation, especially for employees on sick leave prior to being stood down or who have contracted COVID-19 by continuing to work prior to stand down; and (iii) the fact that (as I’ve argued in a previous post)[4] the true purpose of annual leave is not being fulfilled during stand down, yet it is accessible to stood down Qantas workers.

  1. Engineers’ stand down dispute can’t be determined by FWC

The airline’s power to stand down aircraft engineers was contested by the ALAEA. It argued that while the pandemic had significantly limited Qantas’ (and Jetstar’s) operations, the trigger requirement for stand downs of a ‘stoppage’ of work was not met as there was still a need for some level of aircraft maintenance. The union notified the FWC of disputes over this issue. Qantas then applied for an injunction to prevent the FWC from dealing with the matters.

In Qantas Airways Ltd v ALAEA [2020] FCA 682 (19 May 2020), Justice Katzmann of the Federal Court granted the injunction. Had the stand downs been implemented under section 524 of the Fair Work Act, the FWC’s jurisdiction to deal with the disputes would have been clear. However here, the stand downs occurred under the provisions of Qantas and Jetstar enterprise agreements covering the engineers. The airlines were therefore able to raise questions as to the union’s alleged non-compliance with all of the steps in the agreement dispute resolution procedures before heading to the FWC.

Katzmann J was satisfied that the airlines had an arguable case on this point, and found that the balance of convenience was also in their favour:

[80] While refusing the injunction poses no immediate threat of irreparable harm to the Airlines and granting it would cause some prejudice to the ALAEA and its members, and while the position in which the Airlines find themselves is largely of their own making, it seems to me that the Airlines do fall over the line.

[82] … if the proceeding in the Commission were allowed to take its course, considerable expense may be unnecessarily incurred. The jurisdictional question should be resolved first and it is preferable that it be determined finally by the Court.

The question remains, though: why was Qantas so opposed to having a central question in the COVID-19 employment debate – the legal basis for employer stand downs[5] ­– determined by the FWC? Or was this simply a tactical move, putting the union to the cost and delay of a Federal Court action in the hope it would back down?

  1. FWC can rule on a JobKeeper dispute

Finally, Qantas had a loss this week (on the heels of its two wins). A stood down employee had notified the FWC of a dispute over the application of his JobKeeper payments. Essentially, it was a question about what constitutes a ‘JobKeeper fortnight’ for payment purposes under the relevant rules. The airline’s approach had left the employee (he claimed) with a shortfall of $852.30.

The FWC has jurisdiction over certain JobKeeper disputes under new Part 6-4C of the Fair Work Act. In the initial FWC proceedings, Qantas objected to the tribunal determining the matter, in part by arguing that it was essentially an underpayment claim. Deputy President Anderson ruled that this was not a matter that required the exercise of judicial power (as the airline had asserted), and that it fell within the FWC’s jurisdiction under Part 6-4C (which included disputes about whether an employer has met the ‘minimum payment guarantee obligation’ under JobKeeper).

In Qantas Airways Limited v Mazzitelli [2020] FWCFB 2628 (19 May 2020), a Full Bench of the FWC refused to grant the airline leave to appeal against the jurisdictional ruling:

[33] …  It is not in issue that the Commission may not, in dealing with a dispute, exercise the judicial power of the Commonwealth which, under Chapter III of the Australian Constitution, is conferred on courts established pursuant to that chapter. The Commission therefore cannot by arbitration determine whether Qantas has complied with s 789GD or s 789GDA, nor can it order Qantas to pay amounts to which Mr Mazzitelli claims to be legally entitled. However that does not exclude the possibility that the Commission may properly exercise its arbitral power under s 789GV(4) to deal with the dispute between Mr Mazzitelli and Qantas, even assuming the narrow characterisation of the dispute postulated by Qantas, having regard to the fact that s 789GV(4)(d) empowers the Commission to make any order it considers appropriate.

So, Qantas is arguing constitutional points in a less-than-$850 JobKeeper dispute. What is going on here? The pattern is clear from these three cases. It is part of an overall strategy which Joyce deployed successfully in the 2011 dispute. Go hard, don’t give an inch, spend a bucket on litigation if you have to … just win, no matter what the cost to workers who are also doing it tough in the midst of a pandemic.

 

[1] For a detailed account see Anthony Forsyth and Andrew Stewart, ‘Of ‘Kamikazes’ and ‘Mad Men’: The Fallout from the Qantas Industrial Dispute’ (2013) 36 Melbourne University Law Review 785.

[2] See: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-03-19/qantas-has-just-stood-down-20000-staff.-how-can-they-do-that/12069964

[3] See: https://thenewdaily.com.au/finance/consumer/2020/05/05/qantas-jetstar-coronavirus-cancel/

[4] See: https://labourlawdownunder.com.au/?p=802

[5] Katzmann J was alive to the broader implications of this case, at [98]: ‘The evidence indicates that the Airlines have stood down around 20,000 employees. Numerous other businesses have stood down employees in the wake of the current pandemic and the Government’s response to it. … The issues the ALAEA raises [about stand downs under the terms of enterprise agreements] also bear on the interpretation of [stand down powers under] s 524(1)(c) of the FW Act … . It is in the interests of justice that questions of such general and widespread application and importance be determined by a superior court and not left to private arbitration.’

Many thanks to Prof Anthony Forsyth for permission to repost his blog entry from COVID-19 & Work on the Labour Law Down Under website: https://labourlawdownunder.com.au/ 
(originally posted on 21st of May, 2020)

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Debates about what the post-COVID world should look like have turned to industrial relations. Despite the Prime Minister’s plea to move on from ‘old and stale ideas’, business lobbyists have returned to their old refrain: abolish awards as a means of revitalising the Australian economy.

For example, Peter Strong of the Council of Small Business told The Australian last week that Australia should follow New Zealand’s lead (from 1991) and scrap the system of industrial awards.

However, awards play a crucial role in Australia’s system of employment regulation by setting minimum working conditions for workers at the industry/occupation level.

First, awards give expression to the International Labour Organisation’s global goal of decent work: they provide detail on hours of work, pay, training requirements and so on which put a floor beneath which individual workers cannot fall. Sure, wage theft and other breaches of these standards have been permitted to spread in Australia (see last week’s post by Dr Tess Hardy), but this reflects failures in the funding and architecture of enforcement.

Without these detailed award standards, the following scenarios would be permitted by law:

* kitchen hands could be required to work from 5.00 am until midday, then from 4.00 pm until 10.00 pm with each hour paid the same rate of pay. There would be no span of ordinary hours, no prohibition on split shifts, no penalty rates or overtime payments without awards. Indeed, there would be no minimum wage either so expect current award rates to be cut along with everything else.

* employees could be asked to perform any functions consistent with their contractual engagement without the benefit of the training-based career structures found in many awards. The emergency COVID measures permit employers to direct staff to perform any function they have the competency to perform, but this is underpinned by the award protections such as a right to be paid higher duties if the worker is directed to perform higher level tasks. If there were no awards, there would be no classification structures ensuring higher level skills are rewarded with higher rates of pay.

Secondly, awards can respond to the needs of industries in ways that directly legislated standards cannot. In Australia, the Howard Government initiated a set of minimum working conditions in its Work Choices legislation, and the current Fair Work Act continues this tradition. Because these legal standards apply very broadly across the economy, they have to be expressed as general standards and be set at a suitable level for every different industry and occupation: the same statutory rule has to apply to nurses and coal miners, labourers and teachers.

One of the laments of neo-liberal philosophy is that the statutory regulation of working conditions is too rigid and too remote from the real world to be effective and efficient. In the system of award regulation, the Government has an important macro-economic and social policy tool, because awards can be regenerated and modernised with an eye to the particular needs of specific sectors.

Over the last few weeks the quick response of the Fair Work Commission to vary awards in order to allow businesses to adapt to the COVID emergency, with the consent of unions, shows how useful the award system is. So much more could be done to flexibilise and modernise work to maximise skills and participation.

Without awards, it is difficult to speedily diffuse such changes across an atomised labour market regulated only by contract law and a few general legislated rules. A return to unregulated managerial prerogative would lead not only to a degradation of decent work for Australians, but it would also condemn our labour markets to a stultifying race to the bottom with the loss of one of the most important tools of responsive labour regulation. 

Many thanks to Dr Jill Murray and Prof Anthony Forsyth for permission to repost this blog, originally in Anthony’s COVID-19 & Work on his Labour Law Down Under website: https://labourlawdownunder.com.au/. This site, as well as the current contributions on COVID & Work, provide very topical resources for those interested in the world of work.

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Covid-19 and the crisis of casualisation
Karen Douglas | 18th of May, 2020

Recognition of worker exploitation was a contributing factor to the formation of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), a tripartite body of national governments, workers and employers, formed in 1919 with the aim of bringing peace and social justice to communities via a focus on workers’ rights.

One hundred years later we are again considering the impact of poor employment arrangements on a significant part of the Australian labour market. The COVID-19 pandemic highlights the precarious position of casual workers across the Australian economy. Denied access to paid leave arrangements and subject to irregular work patterns and stable income the current pandemic presents opportunities for political, community and business leaders to question what sort of society and economy we want to develop in a post COVID-19 world.

Since the 1980s workforce ‘flexibility’ has been pursued on the basis it is crucial to increasing productivity and enabling more people to enter the labour market. In non-pandemic times about 25% of Australia’s workers are in casual employment, and many of them are in the paradoxical category of ‘regular and systematic’ casual worker. Cassells and Duncan (2020) note women workers are the majority of all casual workers and 57% of the long term casual workforce.[1]

Casual workers bring a suite of skills and knowledge to their employment; competencies employers rely on to deliver quality services. The social support and care sector is dependent on casual women workers. These workers provide support for daily living to people including the aged and those with significant disability. Many are now doing so in dangerous circumstances. Personal protective equipment is lacking and underfunding continues to place more pressure on workers to do more with less.[2]

In our own tertiary education sector there is on over reliance on casual employment. The skills and knowledge of casual workers is fundamental to the development of future problem-solvers, decision-makers and a skilled workforce. Casual workers are critical to the health, well-being and education of our community. However, they are on the fringes when it comes to employment protection and, as we are seeing now, are being dispensed with at pace. Many are not eligible for the JobKeeper payment and continue to work out of necessity despite the health directions to stay home if unwell.[3]

No-one should be without an income or forced to work. Yet, this may be the situation for casual workers.

A post COVID-19 world must have at its core the rebuilding of a society that delivers economic security to working people.

Governments and employers have demonstrated over the last few months the well-being of people can be the focus of economic decision-making. These decisions have strengthened communities. Continuing on this path of security is key to our recovery.


[1]https://bcec.edu.au/assets/2020/04/BCEC-COVID19-Brief-4_Casual_Workers_FINAL.pdf

[2]http://unsworks.unsw.edu.au/fapi/datastream/unsworks:66998/bincdf1e78b-f5e3-470d-8601-ee2cdadb3d42?view=true&xy=01

[3]https://theconversation.com/if-we-want-workers-to-stay-home-when-sick-we-need-paid-leave-for-casuals-138431

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How will Australia respond to that ‘other’ Pandemic?
Lisa Heap | 12th of May, 2020

The World Bank refers to it as global pandemic affecting 1 in 3 women in their lifetime.  The UN calls it a “Shadow Pandemic”.  Violence against women and girls has in the past been estimated to cost over around US $1.5 trillion and yet the response to this other global pandemic has been nothing like that to COVID-19.  The unprecedented state and federal government response to COVID has been swift and comprehensive.  Organisations have also demonstrated just how quickly work arrangements can be modified and re-organised when the business need calls for it, that is when the alternative is no work will get done.  What COVID has shown us is how innovative and creative we can be when the issue is seen to be important enough, and when it’s not an option to ignore it.

The gendered impacts of COVID-19 have been documented over recent weeks. Women are the frontline of workers disproportionately exposed to COVID as they make up the majority of retail, healthcare, social care domestic and cleaning workers.  Economically they are also hardest hit.  They are the lowest paid. Casual and precarious workers are disproportionately women.  Women are more likely to have lost employment and to fail to qualify for supports like Job Keeper.   As the UN has stated a pandemic amplifies and heightens all existing inequalities.

Many of these workers have been exposed not only to the virus but to violence whilst performing work however this is nothing new. Prior to COVID the violence women experience at work in Australia has been clearly documented.  The National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces reports that sexual harassment at work, a form of gender-based violence, was widespread and pervasive in our workplaces.  The report from this inquiry was released in March this year and now sits with the federal parliament.

So, what can be done?  The federal government should re-open discussions on the 4th National Action Plan under the National Plan to Reduce Violence against women and their children 2010–2022  to take account of the impacts of COVID-19. It should also immediately commit to ratifying the ILO’s recently adopted Convention on the elimination of violence and harassment in the world of work.  The Convention is a comprehensive framework, agreed to by governments, workers and employers, on the way forward to end all violence, harassment and gender inequality at work.  The Sex Discrimination Commissioner has recommended ratification of the Convention.  Her other recommendations provide a useful starting point for practical change.  Federal and state government, employers and unions should accept these recommendations and work collaboratively to implement them.  Workplace health and safety regulators can also start to stand up by adopting guidelines, such as those recently adopted by WorkSafe Victoria, and putting resources towards  assisting organisations to end gender-based violence at work.  These measures are only a few that could form part of a comprehensive plan to end this other pandemic.

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CPOW-CRIMT response to COVID-19
Kate Farhall | 7th of May, 2020

The COVID-19 crisis is rapidly reshaping the world of work, but it is also rapidly reshaping the world of work-related research.

CPOW is a key partner centre on the ‘Institutional Experimentation for Better Work’ project, headquartered at the Interuniversity Research Centre on Globalisation and Work (CRIMT) in Montreal, Canada and funded by a large Canadian government grant.

The Project seeks to build knowledge and understanding regarding how to make work ‘better’. Better work is work which is secure, meaningful and productive for workers. The focus of the project is on actors in the world of work, such as employers, unions and governments, who engage in social ‘experimentation’ by trying new ways of regulating and negotiating work’s challenges, and on whether that experimentation leads to improved outcomes for workers.

But what happens when the world of work is thrown into chaos by a viral pandemic, rapidly redefining whose jobs are valued, redrawing lines about who is worthy of government support, and further blurring the arbitrary boundaries we create between work and home? How do we capture this shifting landscape, while maintaining a focus on ‘better work’ outcomes, even as the crisis threatens to deepen social and economic inequalities? And how do we achieve all this in a time of social distancing and the strict regulation of movement and access?

The current situation poses new challenges to research into work and employment, at the same time as it presents new imperatives to capture data, information and experiences. Members of the CPOW-CRIMT partnership are seeking to address these challenges via the establishment of a digital repository of data and analysis regarding the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the world of work. This will be focussed through our major areas of research here in CPOW, as they articulate with the CRIMT ‘better work’ project:

  1. Precarious work;
  2. Inequalities and exploitation at work;
  3. Political economy of work (including the financialisation of work);
  4. Social care and support work; and
  5. Organisations and work.

This database will provide a robust and comprehensive set of materials that can inform future analyses, including future blog posts here at ‘CPOW in the Time of COVID-19’.

Later in the year, this work will continue to be developed via a series of workshops, and in conversation with our global partners on the Project. These discussions will outline the bases for future research, to ensure that the CPOW-CRIMT partnership is able to continue to generate meaningful, policy-relevant research and analyses that provide the basis for better, more decent, meaningful and equal work.

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COVID-19 and rights at work in Australia
Sara Charlesworth | 5th of May, 2020

Much has already been written on the groups of workers inadequately covered by the Job Seeker and Job Keeper funding that aims to provide income support to workers and businesses during the COVID lockdown here in Australia. Many casual workers with less than 12 months service with the one employer, many contracts, agency workers and gig workers fall through many of the gaps and cracks in these two schemes. Temporary visa holders, who have been plugging gaps in the Australian labour force for some time, such as working holiday makers and international students, are especially vulnerable. They are not currently entitled to receive any income support and rent assistance and do not have access to Medicare.

In the COVID era workplace rights still exist for these workers where they are employees, no matter their visa status or whether they are in casual or ongoing employment. However, very recently a number of these protections have been weakened. A CPOW industry partner, JobWatch, one of the longest standing employment rights agencies in Australia, has put out a very useful COVID–19: Employment Rights Q&A. These Q&As go to issues facing a wide variety of workers, both those mentioned above as well workers who have been until now in relatively secure employment. These issues include whether and in what circumstances, employers can direct workers to take leave or change their hours or duties. JobWatch also provides other useful links to COVID-19 advice information on the websites of  Victoria Legal Aid, the Fair Work Ombudsman and the Fair Work Commission.

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Insecurity for disability support workers amidst COVID-19
Raelene West | 29th of April, 2020

In the face of COVID-19, disability support workers, like aged care workers, are confronted daily with the risks of contracting and transmitting the virus. Most disability support workers have little option but to work as they know the support they provide is essential to life. They also need the income. Yet these workers have been virtually invisible in current public discussions of essential services, along with the people with disability they support.

Anecdotal accounts indicate support workers are providing personal care assistance with none or only minimal advice or training on risks of the virus and how to avoid infections. Of significant concern has been the lack of access to PPE such as gloves, face masks and hand sanitiser. People with disability have been forced to purchase gloves from supermarkets and workers have been bringing masks they have purchased or even sewn themselves to shifts. With people with disability mostly restricted to their homes, support workers in group settings and community access roles have been stood down or lost hours. The current COVID-19 crisis is highlighting the risks of an individualised market-based disability support system in which there is a heavy reliance on consumer choice and control to ensure acceptable quality and safety for worker. Some of these workers are without training, oversight or supervision. Perhaps it is time to acknowledge the value of the work undertaken by this highly casualised, undervalued and low-paid workforce.

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CPOW in the time of COVID-19
Sara Charlesworth | 24th of April, 2020

The impact of COVID-19 has been profound and disruptive – CPOW researchers, most of whom are active teaching academics, have had to reconfigure their work and non-work lives to meet the additional demands of online engagement with students. We have also had to rethink research projects in train as face to face engagement with the individuals, communities and organisations with whom we work has become impossible.

Most importantly, however, given CPOW’s mission to contribute to sustainable, fair and decent work for all, is the shattering impact of Covid-19 on more marginalised and vulnerable people and communities. As just one example, my own research is mainly concerned with low-waged women’s work, currently in the aged care sector. While there have been some system and organisational responses to limit the spread of COVID-19 to elderly residents and clients both here and overseas, there has been far less concern about the destructive impact on the lives of the frontline workers who provide aged care. In many countries, including Australia, workers are having their hours cut and rosters changed on a daily basis and many, especially in home care, do not have access to adequate personal protective equipment (PPE). A very recent study across England Wales and Scotland by 2018 CPOW Visiting Research Fellow, Professor Lydia Hayes (University of Kent) and her colleagues has found considerable concern among frontline care workers about adequate access to PPE, not being paid when workers are put into isolation and other COVID-related health and safety concerns. Elsewhere, too, frontline care workers, as both essential but forgotten workers, are falling through the holes of national ‘safety nets’ being hastily pinned together.

As CPOW researchers and fellow travellers we can make a difference by giving voice to many people and communities whose voices have been barely heard in all the COVID-19 ructions. That is why we are starting our CPOW in the time of COVID-19 blog. Please contribute via the form located at the bottom of this page, about the impact of COVID-19 on the people and communities with whom you conduct your research.

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Contribute to the CPOW COVID blog

If you would like to share your insights on how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the people and communities with whom your research is concerned, please complete and submit the form via the link below

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