Incentivising tradeswork and shiftwork post COVID-19

A new report finds tradies and shift workers were the state’s forgotten people during COVID and recommends a trial of 24-hour childcare and tradie toll relief to help our blue, pink and fluoro-collared workforce.

The McKell Institute research for Unions NSW will be presented to Treasurer Dominic Perrottet as a State Budget option paper. It finds many of the workers in question suffered greatly reduced incomes and work hours at the height of the pandemic, all while facing a higher degree of exposure to COVID.

By December of 2020 the tradies, apprentices and labourers of Greater Sydney were earning a combined $143 million less each week due to the economic downturn. This 860,000-strong group makes up almost one-third of the NSW workforce.

Shift workers, who make up about 16 per cent of all employees in areas including health, emergency services, security, transport, logistics, and other private industries dealt with the double blow of having shifts cancelled while grappling with double the risk of catching COVID-19 as those who work in the day.

The report recommends the NSW Government improve these workers’ lives by making early childhood education and care more accessible, with a pilot of a council-run, 24-hour service. The report also calls for cheaper public transport for shift workers, and to run it 24-hours.

For tradies, the report calls for expanded expanded toll-relief schemes and and easing of driver demerit points for them and apprentices who must work in multiple locations. It recognises that tradies disproportionately reside in Greater Sydney, making them more susceptible to toll rises. A further recommendation is legislating to ensure small businesses are paid on time.