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Workfare Can Be Stopped Now

Release From UNITE!


For immediate release 12 December 1999

"The much maligned work-fare or work-for-the-dole scheme can and must be stopped now," said Robert Reid, President of UNITE!, the community based union for unemployed and low paid workers.

He was responding to today's statement of new Social Services Minister, Hon Steve Maharey that it could take up to a year to stop the work-fare scheme. Steve Maharey said that it would take this long to pass the necessary amendments to the Social Security Act.

"While it is pleasing to see that Steve Maharey is committed to the scrapping of work-fare, the scheme can be effectively ended now and does not need to wait for a change in the law," Robert Reid said.

"Every day that the scheme continues, community wage workers are being exploited.

"Every day that the scheme continues real jobs are being displaced and more unemployment is being created.

"Every day that the scheme continues it is placing downward pressure on the wages of low paid workers," Robert Reid said.

"To effectively end the work-fare programme, the Minister simply needs to direct the CEO of WINZ to stop the allocation of further money to the work-fare programme and remove all sanctions for any social welfare beneficiary who refuses to undertake work-fare. This would immediately remove the compulsory and punitive aspect of the scheme.

"At the same time the Minister can direct WINZ to reallocate money to genuine wage based schemes for unemployed people such as Task Force Green," he said.

UNITE! and other beneficiary advocate groups have written to Steve Maharey to seek a meeting with him before Christmas.

"We hope to offer Steve Maharey some constructive ideas on immediate relief for social welfare recipients," Robert Reid. "In addition to the scrapping of work-fare this will include an extra payment for beneficiaries prior to Christmas."

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