Tag Archives: work for the dole

Employment services: a broken system that breaks people

Australia’s mutual obligation system is broken and is breaking people – say the findings of the Mutual Obligation survey

AUWU President Hayden Patterson said:

“The results of this report are a shocking indictment of the employment services system and fly in the
face of what we’ve been told unemployed workers want and need to help them get jobs.

This is the first quantitative survey of this kind that has been made possible by the strength of the
AUWU’s membership. With over 650 individual responses it is statistically significant, and contains
more data from job seekers than the government’s own expert panel report.

The results clearly show that current Mutual Obligation requirements are punitive and that the
majority of job seekers do not get any benefit from employment services. In particular, respondents
indicated a high level of dissatisfaction at the kind of activities that went into in their job plan. The
results also showed there was very little choice over activities and that job seekers were not listened
to about what they wanted to do.

The AUWU said:

“We call on the Government to undertake an urgent review of these unfair and punitive Mutual
Obligation requirements that are causing needless suffering to thousands of ordinary Australians
every day.

Final report available here: Mutual Obligation Survey Results.


Media Inquiries – Jeremy Poxon Jeremy.poxon@auwu.org.au
Survey background -Simone Casey simone.casey@auwu.org.au

Work for the Dole Updates: Members’ Stories

Recently the union asked our members for stories and information regarding their experiences with work for the dole. The response has been amazing! In this series of posts we want to share some of the harrowing tales from the coalface of this ridiculous programme.

If you or anyone you know has done work for the dole, make sure to fill out our survey to help us Boycott Work for the Dole #BoycottWFTD

Kara from Queensland says her work was demeaning, abusive and pointless:

Utterly disgusting. No training, no explanation of tasks needing to be done. Slave labor for zero benefit. Verbally abused by the “supervisor”. Made a formal written complaint, site manager brushed it off completely. I left and never returned. Sorting rotten fruit and vegetables for 8 hours a day. Mopping floors multiple times a day when once was more than sufficient. Biggest waste of my time ever!

Lisa from the Blue Mountains was forced to work at Vinnies, but there was little to do, seems like another situation where the JSA and the host are more interested in getting their government payouts than actually getting people into work.

I was not allowed to be trained on the till or anything else. The only job I was allowed to do was to colour code the clothes on the racks and pick up dropped coathangers. So nothing, really. I was not allowed any breaks at all, while the volunteers got morning tea supplied and a lunch break, I was required to “work” through, though there was no actual work to be done.

The irony is not lost on James in Sydney who reckons his host organisation’s mission was undermined by their methods:

Coercive slavery for a religious organisation that claimed to provide respite for the less fortunate but forcibly employed those same people instead of actually being a good corporate citizen and paying someone for their work!

We were not told about safety issues, we were encouraged by the Work for the Dole not to bother with insurance for accidents, we could not use it for a resume, and the whole exercise took us away from actually applying for actual work!

A story from the other side, Judith, a worker hired to implement a WFTD programme in Victoria, says she was massively under-resourced and had to reach into her own pocket to get basic needs met. At the AUWU we ask, where does all the funding for this programme disappear to?

I was employed under contract by St Vincent De Paul to run a Work For The Dole program over 10 years ago, and I found the facilities for participants were incredibly substandard, while expectations of them were incredibly high. Likewise, the conditions for me as the sole staff member onsite. I endeavored to make the environment as safe and comfortable for participants as possible, but I was untrained and unable to secure the necessary resources from my employer. I often had to use my own money and resources to run the program. It was among the more humiliating treatment of human beings that I have ever seen and I would not work in such a role ever again. I felt that the participants and I were all trapped in a cruel, unfair and broken system. I have also lost all belief in, and respect for, St Vincent De Paul as a charitable organisation, and for the Work For the Dole program.

Sandor from Ethelton in South Australia was exposed to asbestos before he successfully got the worksite shut down. This is an absolute outrage and there are many questions unanswered:

I was exposed to Asbestos at my work for the dole site. Safe work SA cover up. They denied any information about the investigation. All they would tell me is the site is shut down. I am the person who started the investigation. I have photos of the Asbestos also the asbestos managment center confirmed how dangerous it was. Michalea Cash claims the asbestos i was exposed to was safe and the site was safe. I have her letter from her saying this and other lies. No one from work for dole site the supervior host or job network was held liable or prosecuted for my exposure. Every day I think about what they done to me. If it will affect me it’s a matter of time. Shut Work for the dole down it has killed inocent people already and will injure and kill more.
Pissed off

Ted from Brisbane was forced to perform skilled labour with no training, under extremely unsafe conditions:

Very exhausting , my job is doing a fully qualified tradies would do. eg. putting up a corrugated steel ceiling and insulation in the roof system . two persons get hoisted up using a forklift and standing on a pellet without a cage or a harness. One wrong move and can you can fall onto a concrete floor. Very unsafe , I mentioned it to the team leader , he just said it is fine.

That’s it for this update, but we’ve got more to come. In the mean time we’d love to hear your story and if you want to help Boycott Work for the Dole, please fill out our survey!

Welfare-to-work programs have failed to reduce unemployment, says report

ANU research shows proportion of Australian unemployed men aged between 25 and 54 has not changed in almost 15 years

In this year’s budget the work-for-the-dole program was expanded to include jobseekers up to 50 and Restart was introduced, giving employers an inducement to hire older workers. Photograph: Julian Smith/AAP

Welfare-to-work programs promoted by successive governments have had no impact on unemployment as they fail to take into account the changing labour market, researchers have found.

The Australian National University (ANU) research, reported in the Australian on Friday, shows that the proportion of unemployed men aged between 25 and 54 has not changed in almost 15 years, staying at 9-10%.

Professor Peter McDonald from the ANU’s Crawford school of public policy told ABC radio blue-collar jobs were disappearing.

“Full-time jobs for men under age 20 are almost all blue collar, but they’re getting very, very scarce. If you don’t have the skills in this new economy, you’re in trouble,” McDonald said.

He said there was a “fundamental structural problem” for low-skilled workers in the labour market.

“I’m not suggesting that welfare-to-work programs are not a good idea … but we need to be looking at the longer-term issue of intergenerational transfer of disadvantage … kids who leave school, often their parents aren’t working,” McDonald said.

Employment minister Eric Abetz said the program was just one strand of the government’s jobs strategy, and that it was working to create more employment opportunities.

“I’d encourage anyone who wants to see the benefits of work for the dole to speak to the long-term unemployed who have turned their lives around courtesy of the skills provided by this program.

“We know that one of the main reasons employers don’t employ the long-term unemployed people is often because of a lack of work history and work-readiness. The government’s program both provides a reference for the jobseeker and helps to build work-like skills.”

The chief executive of Jobs Australia, David Thompson, said the government needed to shift the focus from welfare-to-work programs to reskilling the jobless.

“We need to invest not just in training, but also in work experience for these people,” Thompson said.

He said service providers were now unable to use government money to put people in training unless it was for a specific job.

“The government’s got to get the economy firing so that there are jobs being created,” Thompson said. “We need to be looking at where opportunities will be for training and future employment opportunities.”

He said the idea that unemployed people were “bludgers” was “far, far from the truth” and that most jobless people were desperate to find work.

Maree O’Halloran, from the National Welfare Rights Network said the welfare-to-work program was “morally wrong [and] doesn’t solve the unemployment problem”.

“[The program] is intended to have a shaming effect,” O’Halloran said. “It’s designed to have stigma attached to being unemployed.”

She said there were five people looking for every job advertised, and the government should focus on job creation rather than welfare measures.

The Greens want welfare-to-work ditched.

“The new [social services] minister [Scott Morrison] should study the evidence and abandon this government’s cruel approach and instead focus on investments in better employment services, skills development, case management, education, training and other programs … [That] would deliver far better results than an ideological commitment to work for the dole,” the Greens senator Rachel Siewert said.

The work-for-the-dole scheme was introduced in 1998 when Tony Abbott was minister for employment services. Labor scaled back the scheme when it took power in 2007, but never abandoned it.

In this year’s budget, Abbott’s first as prime minister, the program was expanded to include jobseekers up to the age of 50.

The government also introduced the Restart program, which gives employers a $10,000 inducement for hiring jobseekers over the age of 50. Senate documents revealed by Fairfax Media show that since July only 510 employers have taken up the scheme, which was projected to help about 32,000 a year.

Abetz told Fairfax the government “expects that take-up will increase as employers become aware of the program”.

A spokeswoman for the minister said the government never expected 32,000 to sign up straight away, but rather that the budget had allotted enough money to facilitate that number of participants.

She said hundreds of people had found jobs as a result of the scheme.

A similar inducement program offered under the Labor government, which gave employers $1,000 a year for hiring senior jobseekers, attracted only 230 applicants in its two years of operation.

“The Restart program has delivered triple the number of jobs in a quarter of the time compared to [opposition leader Bill] Shorten’s failed attempts with his Jobs Bonus Scheme”, employment minister Eric Abetz said.

Labor said its programs focus on training and support for jobseekers. “Tony Abbott has no plans when it comes to creating jobs and getting people off welfare and into work,” shadow employment minister Julie Collins said.