21 January 2016
By Daniel, AUWU member.
Today was our second day on work for the dole.
The first day was hot: 32 degrees, no biggie. Today, it was 34.9 degrees at 11.30, currently writing this at 2.20 pm it is 39 degrees.
Yesterday we all discussed what action would take place once the temperature hit a certain point.
Our supervisors said that if the temperature reached 35 degrees we would be sent home due to the nature of the work (gardening and setting up for the next 24 weeks for a few other activities).
That point came today. The supervisors called the Work For the Dole manager at the Job Network.
I heard bits of the phone call and afterwards the Work for the Dole Coordinator (the boss of all the supervisors) told me that we were staying.
The Work for the Dole manager at the Job Network said she wanted an email before the start of the day, advising her of the chance of weather reaching this point so she could clear it and notify us all.
So we broke for lunch. Returned to the site an hour later. It was really hot. No one was working. We found some shade and bunkered down. A man in his 50’s came forward. He was from a different job agency i think. Earlier in the day he had let everyone know he was in recovery from very serious cancer.
The supervisor noted that and kept him out of the sun. Approaching my supervisor after lunch I could see he was with the man with cancer and was having a heated discussion on his phone with someone. Our supervisor said he was sending him home as he wasn’t going to have him becoming sick and it want going to be on him if he did. The man with cancer was sent home with apologies from the supervisor.
This is when I got fed up. First place I called was work cover. I asked about temperatures and was told there is no legislation for this but you must be working in a safe work environment. I was informed that I should ask about the risk assessment and if it had a temperature clause in it. It didn’t.
I then called The Australian Unemployed Workers Union and spoke to Owen Bennett. I advised Owen that the supervisors wanted to send every one home, but were being prevented by the Job Network.
Very quickly he explained to me a section of the jobactive Work for the Dole Coordinator Deed have regarding a safe work environment:
“The Work For The Dole coordinator must, in accordance with any guidelines directed by the department, conduct a risk assessment of each particular work for the dole place that it identifies for the purpose of this Deed so as to:
… (b)identify any work health and safety issues with the potential Work For the Dole place and what steps will be taken to address those issues
…(d) confirm that the potential Work For The Dole host organisation is satisfied it has current and adequate work health and safety policies and procedures in place to deliver the activities in the Work for the Dole place safely”
I confirmed with him that we had all put down our tools and were sitting in the shade. Owen also said that this is against work for the dole guidelines to have us sitting down doing nothing. According to the Work for the Dole guideline, an activity “must provide job seekers with the opportunity to gain skills, experience and confidence to move from welfare to work while at the same time making a positive contribution to their local community”.
With these two bits of information I took it to my supervisor and said all of the above. I said no matter what job network says you have the call on safety and sending us home.
He took it to his supervisor and everyone was sent home two minutes later.