The Abbott government rolled out the ‘Green Army Initiative’ last month. A so-called ‘environmental action’ program where young people sign up to earn slightly higher than they would get from Newstart or Youth Allowance. Workers between 17 and 24 work up to 30 hours a week and are paid about a half of minimum wage.
Environment Minister Greg Hunt claims the initiative will help develop skills for young people and allow them to move into full time work. The program however will take advantage of young people and encourage them to leave education placements for a few more dollars a week.
The introduction of this work-for-the-dole type employment goes hand-in-hand with federal budget’s cuts to welfare, including a 6 month waiting period for Centrelink and increases to university fees. The choices facing young people are increasingly homelessness, slave wages or a lifetime of debt.
These government programs are not only damaging to those employed by them but they threaten a race to the bottom for all workers by setting a precedent of below minimum wage payments. Unions should recognise this program as an attack on the minimum wage and entitlements and oppose it outright. Young people need real jobs and decent wages not work-for-the-dole.
By Toby Dite