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Union warns ‘we’ll all pay’ if casual workers don’t receive paid sick leave during COVID-19

The retail and fast food workers union has warned the Australian government’s failure to provide paid pandemic sick leave to casual workers may lead to coronavirus spiralling out of control.

While Australians have been advised to stay home if they are feeling unwell, casual workers who do so will not be paid for shifts they don’t attend.

With many in the retail and food sector already facing significant cuts to their work hours, many can’t afford to stay home if they are ill.

National Secretary for the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association, Gerard Dwyer, said it’s a recipe for disaster.

OECD figures show one-in-four Australian workers are casually employed, but Mr Dwyer said that figure is even higher in the retail and food and beverage industries.

“The casual workforce in Australia approaches 40 per cent,” he told 3AW’s Tom Elliott.

“Large numbers of people simply can’t afford not to get paid for a shift.”

Mr Dwyer warned casual workers will go to work ill and spread COVID-19 if no paid sick leave scheme is brought in.

“If we don’t get something in place we’ll all pay for it,” he said.

“The worst economic scenario that we face is also the worst health scenario outcome that we face, and that is a second wave.

“One of the key things that needs to be done is to ensure we’re not providing incentives for people to go to work if they’re ill.”

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