There are fears thousands of Tasmanian council workers are staring down the barrel of unemployment because local governments are unable to access the federal government's JobKeeper payment scheme.
Australian Services Union Tasmania organiser Samantha Batchelor claimed the exclusion of council workers from the $130 billion JobKeeper scheme meant council workers had been left behind with no job security.
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She has accused the state and federal governments of not doing enough to help councils keep workers employed during the coronavirus pandemic.
"We're really fearful that with the low cash reserves that councils have, that we will see councils facing difficult decisions around staffing and sending hardworking council workers to the unemployment lines," Ms Batchelor said.
"We're campaigning hard and we've got lots of workers right across councils across the country still trying to put pressure on the federal government.
"Although they tried to wipe their hands, the opportunity [for council workers to access the JobKeeper payment] is still open because the legislation is due to go through parliament when they regroup this week."
On Friday Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it was the job of state governments to provide necessary support to councils.
"Local governments are not eligible for JobKeeper from the Commonwealth government ... if there is support necessary for local governments that will be provided by the state and territory governments, not the Commonwealth government," Mr Morrison said.
On Saturday Deputy Premier Jeremy Rockliff said the government was aware of concerns about the impact of COVID-19 on the local government sector.
"My advice is that the federal government's JobSeeker payment could apply for employees who have lost their jobs because of the COVID-19 pandemic," Mr Rockliff said.
"In our second social and economic support package we announced last week, we extended the $50 million interest free loan scheme for local government to $150 million. We will also be broadening the criteria for the scheme to provide local government with more flexibility for how loans are utilised."
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The union believes the state government's response will hurt workers and communities.
"JobSeeker is pretty much the Newstart unemployment benefit whilst JobKeeper ensures they stay in employment post-pandemic," Ms Batchelor said.
"It's almost like workers and the community are doubly being hit through this, that [loan repayments] will result in rate rises presumably at some point in the future."
Ms Batchelor said if the federal government refused to let council workers access the JobKeeper payment, the state government should intervene and help the local government sector more.
"The state government could just give the same guarantee they've given to public servants and that is that every permanent, part time, full time, casual and contract worker in the public service is guaranteed ongoing employment," she said.
Labor leader Rebecca White backed the union and called on the state government to keep council staff in work.
"At a time like this, when so many Tasmanians have already lost their jobs and others are facing uncertainty and hardship, we need to do everything we can to save the jobs of these workers," Ms White said.
"Local government needs support from the state government so they don't have to let staff go."
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