JOBS WITH JUSTICE
Create a new Aboriginal employment program to replace Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) that have been gutted through recent reforms and are exploiting Aboriginal workers.
Jobs created must pay at least award wages, with rights to join unions and collectively bargain.
The program must be administered by community based organisations, with development needs and priorities set through broad community consultation.
All willing workers should be employed.
The NT Intervention promised "real jobs". But thousands of workers are being put onto Centrelink as CDEP is phased out. Many community programs and basic services formally provided by CDEP workers have either stopped or lost capacity.
Prior to the Intervention, CDEP was the main employer of Aboriginal people in the NT. Official figures put the number of participants in the NT at 7,500, (pdf) though the real figure could be higher. Wages were often very low, few workers were paid superannuation. But a CDEP place was at least a job, along with being a crucial source of labour for under-resourced communities and the foundation of numerous Aboriginal enterprises.
The abolition of CDEP was one of the key aspects of the Howard Government's Intervention in 2007.
Following their election, Labor put a moratorium on the abolition. But in 2009 they began a process of reform that has gutted the program. Pay arrangements were altered and many Aboriginal organisations lost their status as CDEP providers to Shire councils or private providers.
There are currently two "streams" of CDEP participants.
The first stream, called "Continuing Participants", is workers who have maintained an unbroken relationship with their CDEP provider since July 2009. They are still paid a form of wages through their provider.
As of February 28, 2011 only 2,403 Continuing Participants were still in the system in the NT and the stream will be abolished completely in 2012 (pdf).The 2011 Budget papers said, "CDEP wage participants will transfer progressively onto income support from April 2012".
For the second stream, called New Participants, payment now takes place through Centrelink and is only $20 per fortnight higher than the regular allowance. For most workers, half of this payment is quarantined on a 'BasicsCard'.
As of February 28, 2011 there were 2,198 New Participants in the NT. These 'BasicsCard workers' are mainly doing municipal work for Shire councils, along with a range of activities including aged care, refurbishments and fencing. Work hours are supposed to be capped at 16 hours per week, though in many cases people are working more.
The gross exploitation involved in coercing Aboriginal people to work for a BasicsCard has been condemned by trade unions, human rights groups and Aboriginal organisations.
As of February 2011, the federal and NT governments had created 2,241 new positions as part of an NT Jobs Package - supposedly to replace lost CDEP positions with "real jobs". However, 61 per cent of these positions (pdf) are only part-time and many are on the lowest level of public sector pay - an effective pay cut for workers previously on CDEP wages.
Explore the reality further: What's the next demand?