I’m a barista, and had already been struggling to pick up shifts over the semester break as I’m a casual worker and the café I work at is on a university campus. I was looking forward to things picking up as classes went back, and was planning on trying to get some savings together. I didn’t get the chance. I went into work last Friday for my regular shift, and that evening I got an email from my employer explaining it is a stressful time for small business and that we should prepare for a reduction in hours. When I checked my roster for the next week I had no hours at all.
Now my partner has a fever and I know that I need to self-isolate. This means I can’t take any shifts (even if I was offered them) and I can’t go out to find another job (even though I need to). It puts me in an impossible situation — I need to go out and work to look after myself, but if I do that I’ll be putting my colleagues and my community at risk. There’s already a culture in hospo of going to work sick because so many of us can’t afford to miss a day’s pay (or find someone to cover our shift), and I’m so worried about what this will mean for our community during a pandemic. Washing our hands and sanitising surfaces is not enough.
We need the government to provide replacement wages now. Centrelink payments can take weeks to process, and it’s way less than what most hospo workers earn. I don’t know how I will pay my rent.
This crisis is exposing all the cracks in an industry built on insecure work. With no safety net to catch us, we’re going to fall through them. Our bosses have a responsibility to us and so does the government. They’re promising relief to businesses, but what about the workers?
We need a pandemic response that is centred on health and not wealth — on people and not profits. There’s no such thing as trickle down economics, we need money in the pockets of workers, not in the pockets of business.