Up to 12,000 community sector jobs at risk due to funding uncertainty
9 September 2020 at 5:31 pm
The federal government says it is in “active discussions” with the sector about the funding deal
The Australian Council of Social Service is alarmed by new research showing close to 12,000 community service jobs could be lost if the federal government fails to renew a Commonwealth funding deal worth more than $500 million a year.
Over the past eight years, the federal government has provided extra funding to most Commonwealth-funded community organisations to help cover higher wages resulting from a 2012 Fair Work Commission decision.
This ruling – which addressed the gendered undervaluation of work in the female-dominated community services sector – has seen wages rise by up to 45 per cent.
But this extra federal government funding is set to cease from July 2021, leaving sector leaders fearful for what comes next.
Now a new report from the left-leaning Australia Institute warns this looming funding shortfall will undermine and reverse the progress that has been made toward pay equity in recent years.
Researchers said if $576.5 million in annual funding is not renewed, up to 12,000 community service jobs are at risk.
Dr. Jim Stanford, director of the Australia Institute’s Centre for Future Work, said even if the funding cut did not result in major job losses, it would still cause great harm to community sector workers.
“If the brunt of the funding cut is experienced through effective wage reductions it would reduce annual incomes for federally-funded community service workers by as much as $15,000 for full-time staff,” Stanford said.
“To put up to 12,000 community service jobs at risk, or force community service workers to take a $15,000 a year pay cut in the middle of global pandemic and an economic recession is both heartless and economically self-destructive.”
In response to the report, ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie told Pro Bono News that failure to renew the funding deal would indeed have a “devastating effect” on the sector.
“We’d see thousands of job losses, right when the government should be focused on doing everything it can to reduce sky-rocketing unemployment,” Goldie said.
“We’d also see a dramatic reduction in services available, right when so many people are depending on them to get through this crisis.”
Goldie said communities and organisations relied on this funding to pay the wages of workers on the front line of service delivery.
She noted that the services these predominantly women workers provide were crucial for people to get through the pandemic and to rebuild their lives.
“This funding ensures that communities and organisations can deliver quality services to everyone who needs them, including some of the most disadvantaged people in our community. Without it, cuts to services are inevitable,” she said.
Social Services Minister Anne Ruston told Pro Bono News that she was in “active discussions” with the sector about how to deal with this Commonwealth funding beyond June next year.
She said the government was committed to supporting jobs and keeping people connected to the workforce.
“This is an ongoing conversation and I have made a commitment to work with the sector on how to… best ensure the long-term sustainability of our social services system in a way that delivers real and long lasting benefits for those who need its support,” Ruston said.