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Home > News > 2017 > September > First Nations workers unite over punitive unemployment program

First Nations workers unite over punitive unemployment program

FNWA01.jpgIndigenous workers have united in the newly-formed First Nations Workers Alliance (FNWA) in response to the Federal Government’s punitive Community Development Program (CDP), which is negatively and disproportionately affecting Indigenous communities.

Under the CDP program, workers face onerous conditions simply to receive basic support payments – including a requirement to work 25 hours per week, significantly more than the requirements of metropolitan ‘work for the dole’ schemes.

80% of workers targeted by the program are members of remote Indigenous communities 

In effect, the program supports free labour in remote communities where jobs are already scarce and replaces real, paying jobs with unpaid labour. Participants who do not comply with the scheme face severe financial penalties and extended periods of being cut off from support payments entirely.

Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) Secretary Sally McManus said the program discriminated against Indigenous people living in remote communities.

“The remote work-for-the-dole CDP program is giving Indigenous workers to companies as free labour and paying them nothing. Fines are given in CDP at a rate 70 times higher than other unemployment programs,” Ms McManus said.

“This program is crushing families in remote communities. They need real jobs and they need to be paid a legal wage.”

ACTU Indigenous Officer Lara Watson said the program triggered a Senate Enquiry and had “devastated” remote communities.

“The evidence being heard in the Senate Enquiry is appalling but not surprising to anyone who has been following the awful evolution of CDP over the past year. This is a program which forces people to work with no OHS protection, for no wages, often doing manual labour, for 25 hours a week,” Ms Watson said.

“This program replaces what little employment exists in remote communities with unpaid positions in a racially discriminatory program.”

The FNWA was formed by the ACTU to empower the voices of Indigenous workers and address their unique employment concerns. Our union is a member of the FNWA.

Unions lead the way on reconciliation

Our union believes the union movement has a responsibility to protect the interests of our nation’s first peoples and lead the way in the journey to reconciliation.

Branch Secretary Terry Burke said as part of our union’s own commitment to reconciliation, the IEUA-QNT Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) had been implemented in 2016. 

"Our union’s RAP operates at the Innovate level in accordance with Reconciliation Australia guidelines, joining together with a large collective of organisations that have turned their good intentions into a framework for action," Mr Burke said.

"An Innovate RAP is for organisations that have developed relationships with their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stakeholders and are ready to develop or implement programs for cultural learning, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment and supplier diversity," he said. 

A key commitment of our RAP is the development of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Employment and Retention Strategy that sets out plans to work with stakeholders both inside and outside of our organisation to improve employment outcomes for Indigenous people. 

This strategy ranges from engaging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses to supply goods and services through to providing a vocational placement for an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander secondary student.

Read more about our union’s RAP at www.qieu.asn.au/about-your-union/reconciliation-action-plan-rap