Mildura casual worker says more deserve JobKeeper cash

MILDURA resident Kira Forsyth is one of an estimated one million casual workers who will miss out on the Federal Government's JobKeeper package.

The 22-year-old had been working at The Sandbar for four months when the government moved to close all pubs and bars on March 23 due to COVID-19.

"It pretty much happened overnight," she said. "I was at leaving work on the Sunday night and said, 'I'll see you on Monday'.

"Within 20 minutes of walking out the door, I had a message saying that we would be closed."

The JobKeeper scheme passed through Federal Parliament last week and will pay employers affected by COVID-19 $1500 per employee per fortnight to pass on to employees to retain their positions.

The scheme will benefit both full-time and part-time workers, but excludes casual workers who have been with their employer for less than 12 months.

Ms Forsyth has worked at The Sandbar on and off for four years and said she was just as deserving of the payment as any worker, despite being with the bar for only four months at the time of its closure.

"I am entitled to it just as much as other people -- I still do the same work they do," she said.

"I'm entitled to it because I have put the work in.

"It's not like I am sitting at home -- I was working all through school and after, I have been working for around six years."

The JobKeeper scheme has been widely criticised, including by Mildura Member Ali Cupper, for its exclusion of casual workers with less than 12 months' service.

Before the legislation Ms Cupper addressed a letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison asking his government to reconsider allowing all casual workers to use the scheme.

"Hard-working people are going to be excluded," she said.

"Casual workers who have been working with their employer for less than 12 months are hard-working people and they often have families to support.

"It's not just families -- we are talking about young people who are just making ends meet to pay rent and they have been working seven months at a cafe and now they have to go to Centrelink for the JobSeeker payment and it just doesn't feel right."

All workers who are deemed ineligible for the JobKeeper payment have been advised by the government to apply for the lesser JobSeeker package.

The JobSeeker scheme offers a $550 payment per fortnight, with an additional $550 per fortnight for eligible applicants whose work was affected due to COVID-19.

Ms Forsyth applied for the JobSeeker welfare payment as soon as she lost her job and has applied for other jobs.

"I applied at the hospital as a cleaner, then I put my resume into a transport group and also put one in at the supermarket," she said.

"I have also applied for things I have seen online -- there's nothing around and everything requires experience, which is so frustrating

"I applied for the JobSeeker (payment) as well and applied to access my super as soon as I lost my job and I have received messages saying they have received my claim but I haven't seen any money."

The Sandbar worker had started the process of buying her first home before she was let go, but said she was feeling grateful things worked out as they had.

"I had one lined up and was going through the process with the bank and then this all happened," she said.

"I am so thankful that is wasn't a month before and I would have had a mortgage on my hands."