Remote work for the dole scheme ‘modern slavery’
The Community Development Program (CDP), which disproportionately impacts Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workers, has been described as ‘modern slavery’.
Under the CDP program, remote workers face onerous conditions simply to receive basic support payments – including a requirement to work 25 hours and five days per week, significantly more than the requirements of metropolitan ‘work for the dole’ schemes.
Workers engaged on CDP to receive support payments have an effective hourly pay rate of around $10.
Of the 35,000 CDP participants, 83% are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. 6,000 people have disengaged from the scheme and are potentially not receiving any support.
The program costs $65 million per year to administer.
The federal coalition government has proposed changes to the CDP program despite the fact all 21 submissions made to a recent Senate committee opposed the changes.
Under the government’s plan, new penalties introduced to the CDP would not be able to be waived – meaning lost income could not be reinstated – and would include a new demerit system including payment suspensions of up to four weeks.
Submissions which opposed the changes highlighted unfair work hours and difficulties faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participants including language barriers, lack of internet and telecommunication access and disproportionate health concerns.
Union formed in response to CDP
Last year the ACTU launched its First Nations Workers Alliance (FNWA) to empower the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander CDP workers and address their unique employment concerns.
The FNWA, of which our union is a member, continues to fight back against the CDP program.
Sally McManus, Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) Secretary, said in effect the CDP program supports free labour in remote communities where jobs are already scarce and replaces real, paying jobs with unpaid labour.
“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 had “devastated” remote communities.
“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.”
To support the FNWA, visit https://fnwa.org.au/