ACTU backs BasicsCard workers

The attack on Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) that has gone along with the NT Intervention has cost thousands of Aboriginal jobs. People still on CDEP—some working up to 40 hours a week—are now mostly being paid only their Centrelink entitlements, but 50 per cent of this is quarantined on a “BasicsCard’’. 
Disgracefully, regional shire councils are using these workers as free labour to provide services such as garbage collection, construction, maintenance and cleaning. “BasicsCard” workers are also being used in art centres and schools.
Combined with Intervention policies that are starving remote communities of resources, the forced labour is pushing people out of their homelands in search of paid work. However, jobs and housing in the urban centres are extremely limited, and the drift is adding to the already acute social problems.
February’s ACTU executive meeting discussed the plight of the “BasicsCard” workers. Kara Touchie, chair of the ACTU Indigenous Committee, gave a report on her recent trip to Ampilatwatja, where Aboriginal people have established a walk-off protest camp against the Intervention.
Following the report, the ACTU in principle endorsed the creation of a paid position for an NT community organiser to educate Aboriginal workers about unions and campaigning for proper wages and job creation across all communities. 
A Prescribed Area People’s Alliance activists meeting on February 12, resolved to get started unionising their communities and to hold a demonstration in Alice Springs on May 1.


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