The jobs of council workers across Tasmania are under threat and the federal government needs to help pay their wages, the Australian Services Union believes.
Tasmanian-based union organiser Samantha Batchelor said the coronavirus pandemic had led to pressure being put on councils to halt rate increases and in some cases waive rates entirely.
"That money has to be found from somewhere," Ms Batchelor said.
"There was no extra funding [offered to councils by state or federal governments]."
Coronavirus: All the latest updates on COVID-19 for Tasmania
Of the 29 councils across the state, Ms Batchelor said many had "small amounts in the bank".
She said if the state or federal government followed the lead of jurisdictions overseas and forced a mass shutdown of non-essential services, the union feared some councils would stand workers down.
"If we move to a more non-essential shutdown particularly, that's the time we think the trigger could be pulled and councils would really move towards standing down parts of the workforce.
"It really wouldn't take long for some councils to not be able to pay their wages bill, we could see councils move to very quickly put off staff."
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Councils in Victoria had already stood down parts of their workforce and the state government in Tasmania had not guaranteed council workers jobs would be safe, Ms Batchelor said.
Mayors, general managers and council workers had "deep concerns" about their ability to cope with the financial fallout of the pandemic, according to Ms Batchelor.
"It's quite scary really, no part of the workforce is immune.
"We need to see wage subsidies from a federal level, that's much like the UK models whereby they pay money directly to an employer to keep people in employment."
Workers in the UK affected by a coronavirus shutdown have 80 per cent of their wages paid by the government, Ms Batchelor said.
"If you want people to follow the best health advice they need to know that their livelihoods are protected and that there's not going to be grave consequences for them if they're forced to stay home.
"The wage subsidy will ensure workers in every industry have the confidence to follow the best health advice."
Ms Batchelor said wage subsidies would be a more effective response to the pandemic because they would protect the health of workers and the community while also reducing the harmful social and financial effects of unemployment.
"So far we've really seen just so much money thrown into the hands of businesses without a guarantee that they'll actually keep workers on. That creates more inequality potentially."