The pandemic is forcing America to confront its epidemic low-wage problem
- So far, the forces unleashed by the pandemic and the accompanying economic collapse have inflicted the highest level of job losses and reduced hours on those getting paid the least, although government spending under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act has temporarily staved off some of the most dire consequences.
- In their “The Declining Worker Power” paper, Stansbury and Summers, who served as a top economic official under both President Bill Clinton and President Barack Obama, describe both how this loss of power has driven the expansion of low-wage employment and the structural problems facing those seeking to restore labor’s bargaining power.
- There may, however, be other ways to improve the income of low-wage workers without raising the already high threat level of automation.
Jeff Bezos is richer than ever
- He's now worth nearly $172 billion, a new record for the world's richest person, according to Bloomberg Billionaire Index.
- Bezos this week surpassed previous his previous wealth record that he reached prior to his divorce from his ex-wife MacKenzie.
- MacKenzie's wealth also hit a record: She's now worth $57 billion, making her the 12th richest person in the world.
- Her wealth skyrocketed 54% year to date, or an increase of nearly $20 billion, according to Bloomberg's tallies.
- Bezos' company, which has faced criticism for employee safety and pay, said this week its giving out more than $500 million as a "Thank You bonus" to front-line workers who were with the company throughout the month of June.
- That move comes after the company eliminated a $2 hourly wage bump and double overtime pay for frontline workers at the end of May. Amazon didn't immediately respond for a comment regarding Bezos' wealth.
ATO warns 8000 businesses over JobKeeper eligibility
- The Tax Office could move to recoup JobKeeper payments from as many as 8000 small businesses around the country, after warning some employers may not be eligible for the payments.
- Businesses and sole traders receiving the $1500 fortnightly wage subsidies have been told they face compliance checks by the ATO if they started operating after January 1, or where they had no assessable business income during the 2018-19 financial year.
- The ATO is completing manual checks within identified groups, but warned businesses which don't meet the requirements could not receive taxpayer cash.
- Labor has used the Eden-Monaro byelection campaign to heap pressure on the government to release its review into JobKeeper, completed last week by Treasury Secretary Steven Kennedy.
- Dr Kennedy handed the report to Treasurer Josh Frydenberg last week and its release is expected before the government's economic update later this month.
Watchdog finds builders' elections improper
- The watchdog for unions and employer groups has uncovered that Victoria's peak construction body had been improperly electing some of its top officials, including positions held by senior executives in the industry.
- An investigation by the Registered Organisations Commission found Master Builders Victoria bypassed the peak body's state council of members to select its presidents and vice-presidents for elections held in 2016 and 2018, in breach of the organisation's rules.
- A spokesman for the ROC said its inquiry found the MBV's president and vice-president in each of the 2016 and 2018 elections were not elected by or from the state council, as required by the peak body's rules, and "were therefore ineligible to nominate for election to those offices".
- A ROC spokesman said because MBV was under the election exemption at the time it could not be subject to penalties and the peak body had now surrendered its exemption.
Qantas facing legal action over JobKeeper
- The union for Qantas airport staff has pledged to take immediate legal action against the airline because it says it is refusing to change how it uses JobKeeper to pocket parts of the wage subsidy.
- But the airline is opposing union calls to apply a similar standard to the thousands of employees who are paid fortnightly and have seen JobKeeper used to pay down their penalty rates in a fortnight where they don’t work.
- The Fair Work Commission in May found Qantas had been unreasonably allocating earnings for a monthly-paid employee to different fortnights that saw it use JobKeeper to pocket parts of staff pay.
- In a note to members on Thursday, the ASU said it only found out Qantas had changed its position on monthly-paid staff this week after the union pointed out the updated guidance.
Fair Work rejects delay to retail penalty rate cuts
- The workplace tribunal has rejected the retail union's push to delay cuts to Sunday rates and align them with the delayed minimum wage increase, citing uncertainty over the economic outlook from the coronavirus crisis.
- The Fair Work Commission late Wednesday held the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association's (SDA) alleged link between the phased cuts to penalty rates and annual wage rises was "not as strong" as the union claimed and so refused to delay them until February 2021 when minimum wages will lift for retail.
- A full bench led by President Iain Ross said while the 2017 penalty rates bench had observed the phased cuts would usually align with the minimum wage decision, "there was no immutable presumption that the penalty rates reductions and annual wage review increases would always occur at the same time".
NAB mothballs two Melbourne CBD offices
- The spike in COVID-19 cases in Melbourne has forced National Australia Bank to mothball two of its CBD offices for the foreseeable future.
- The bank has revealed plans to temporarily close its offices at 700 and 800 Bourke Street in Docklands from July 14.
- NAB, one of the big four banks, had originally planned to allow up to 20 per cent of its Melbourne workforce to return to the office on a needs basis as of mid-June before the city experienced a second spike in cases, but only 7 per cent ended up returning to the office.
- All of NAB's Melbourne-based employees who need to be in the office will work from 500 Bourke Street.
- In what unions fear will lead to permanent changes in the "new world of work", the workplace tribunal has backed employers' bid to continue waiving penalty rates for staff who work remotely during the recovery.
JobTweaker lever needed to pull back from cliff
- So a second wave of government supports must extend the emergency lifeline for the economy beyond September.
- The list is long: JobKeeper ends, the doubling of unemployment benefits through JobSeeker stops, the pause in payments on half a million mortgages runs out, the rental eviction ban is lifted, government loan guarantees for small businesses pull back, and the clock runs out on extra wage subsidies for apprentices.
- Or, to put that another way, if you want to know what will happen with JobKeeper, keep watching the virus numbers in Melbourne.
- But the recession is changing shape fast, so the nature, timing and dollars of government support needs to change fast too.
- So whatever happens, we shouldn’t be scared of spending more money if that’s needed to get unemployment back down.
- The mistake the world made after the GFC was pulling back government support too soon.
One in three jobs back as restrictions ease
- The total number of payroll jobs increased 0.2 per cent in the first week of June and did not rise in the second week of the month, the Australian Bureau of Statistics numbers show.
- Since mid-May, employment is 1 per cent higher, according to the ABS data, which draws on Australian Taxation Office payroll statistics.
- The easing of business restrictions imposed to slow the spread of the virus helped jobs for people aged under 20 recover faster, Tuesday's payroll data show.
- Despite some early recovery, payroll jobs in accommodation and food services are down 28.6 per cent and 23.9 per cent lower in arts and recreation.
- Jobs in accommodation and food services such as restaurants came back faster than other work in other industries as social bans eased, but ABS data show the jobs recovery has slowed overall.
Union case to delay penalty rate cuts questioned
- The Fair Work Commission has questioned the retail union's linking of penalty rate cuts to minimum wage increases, casting doubt over its push to delay the cuts set to take effect this weekend.
- The workplace tribunal promised to deliver a speedy decision on the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association's last-minute bid to delay Sunday rate cuts for retail workers, from 165 per cent to 150 per cent, after holding an urgent hearing on Monday.
- The union has argued the 2017 decision to cut penalty rates over three years was meant to align with minimum wage decisions to ameliorate the effect on workers and so deferring this year's increase until February meant the cuts should also be delayed.
- The 1.75 per cent increase in the minimum wage set for February would see the full-time retail worker lift their pay by about $14 a week but the penalty rate cuts would reduce their wage for an eight-hour Sunday shift by $25.59.