Job agencies to get unprecedented powers

The Turnbull government wants to give private job agencies control over the incomes of unemployed people. A bill, currently before the Senate, proposes handing job providers the power to dock the Centrelink payments of unemployed workers for crimes such as failing to sign a jobs plan on the spot or not updating their résumé.

Job providers will be able to “fine” Newstart recipients 10 percent of their payment for each day that they are deemed to have engaged in “inappropriate behaviour”. Private providers will also be handed the power to define what constitutes “inappropriate behaviour” in an unemployed person. 

With the dole already $391 below the poverty line, for many unemployed workers, a 10 percent deduction of their income support will place them in severe financial distress.

“With the dole already $391 below the poverty line, for many unemployed workers, a 10 percent deduction of their income support will place them in severe financial distress”, Owen Bennett, from the Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union, told Red Flag

“By proposing that job agencies should be given new unprecedented powers to financially penalise unemployed workers, the Turnbull government is sending a clear message to the employment services industry that these tactics are not only acceptable but should be intensified”, Bennett said.

One of these job agencies, US “welfare business” giant MAX Solutions, recorded an annual revenue of $US1.7 billion in 2014.

The latest attacks come on the back of legislation passed last year that significantly expanded Work for the Dole. Under the larger scheme, all adults between 18 and 49 who are receiving Newstart are required to participate.

“Work for the Dole is the centrepiece of the government’s punitive approach to the unemployed”, Bennett said. “Under this program, unemployed workers are forced to do humiliating unpaid menial work … who, under the threat of this humiliating program, become inclined to accept any work at any condition.”

The Work for the Dole scheme has been shown to have a negligible effect on assisting job seekers to find work. According to a recent Senate estimates hearing, the program, which costs $1 billion a year, increased the likelihood of participants getting off income support payment by only 2 percentage points. The government has rejected all calls to scrap or change the program.