Boss’s blunt text over $1500 JobKeeper payment
The owner of a boutique in a dispute with a worker who asked for the $1500 JobKeeper allowance has defended a text message exchange where she told the employee she was "so blonde" and "you work when I need you".
The text message conversation comes amid growing concerns from casual workers who claim they are being asked to work longer hours to secure the fortnightly wage subsidy.
But there's also confusion over how the new scheme operates with bosses and employees not sure about the rules.
Celena Cristea, 21, had worked at the Adelaide boutique Naked by the Sea for 18 months before the dispute over the JobKeeper allowance led to her termination as a long-term casual, she claimed.
Ms Cristea claims her boss, Gina Romeo, told her she couldn't afford to pay her the $1500 a fortnight until the end of the month when the Morrison Government payments would begin.
Ms Cristea claims Ms Romeo also wanted her to work longer hours during the month where she would not get paid.
"You work when I need you to," her boss said in one text message.
"Are you still going on? Do t (sic) forget I am doing you a favour."
Ms Cristea said was told she would get a $3000 "lump sum" at the end of the month but said there no records were kept of the increased hours she was working.
In one exchange after she questioned the arrangement, her employer told Ms Cristea she was "so blonde".
In another text exchange, Ms Romeo said securing JobKeeper was contingent on Ms Cristea working longer hours.
"To earn $750 with me you will have to do about 25 hours. It's black and white. If you don't want to work those hours I won't include you,'' Ms Romeo wrote.
"Then you will have to go to Centrelink. Your choice."
But Ms Romeo, said she had no regrets over the text messages.
"It's tough. I just don't have time. You know what I mean? I was doing her a favour,'' she said.
"You should see what she says to me. I was being nice to her. I will tell you exactly what happened. I said, 'I need you to work at least 15 hours.'
"She thought she was going to stay home and get JobKeeper. I said, 'Are you the Prime Minister?'
"Don't worry about the messages. She just didn't want to do the hours. I haven't got time for people who don't want to work for me.
"She expected me to do all the work and she wanted to stay home and get JobKeeper."
Ms Cristea said she never agreed not to be paid for a month as her boss had suggested.
"She can say what she wants. I am the one with the screenshots and everything,'' Ms Cristea said.
"She told me she wasn't going to pay me fortnightly, but a lump sum at the end of the month. I called the ATO, I called Fair Work. They all told me there is no such thing as minimum hours. I said, 'Actually you're wrong. You're using me.'"
Prime Minister Scott Morrison encouraged any workers who are sacked after requesting JobKeeper to contact Fair Work.
"I would be concerned about any behaviour by employers that was coercive and be very keen for that to be relayed to Fair Work and the ombudsman and others to ensure that we can take action on those cases where they are presented,'' he said.
"The employer can obviously ask you to do the $750 actual rate of pay of work. That is not an unreasonable request that someone would work the hours."
However, the Prime Minister's office later qualified that answer and said it was not correct to suggest workers can be asked to do more hours to secure the $750-a-week JobKeeper.
They can only be asked to reduce hours to get the $1500 JobKeeper payment, for example if they have been stood down, but not asked to increase them.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has also warned employers cannot "cherry pick" the staff they want to receive the $1500 JobKeeper payment as evidence emerges of widespread confusion and rorting of the rules.
The Australian Taxation Office has declared a "one in, all in" rule applies to eligible employees whether they have been stood down or are a long-term casual worker facing reduced hours.
But multiple workers have contacted news.com.au to complain bosses have told them they will not be applying for JobKeeper on the advice of an accountant or that they plan to pick and choose which workers secure the $1500 a fortnight payment.
Victorian Trades Hall secretary Luke Hilakari said the issue was just starting to "blow up".
"There is no accountability for the employer. It relies on their goodwill," he said.
"We are getting calls from workers saying employers don't want to do it. Some employers are asking for a 'cut' of the cash, which is illegal.
"This is not a kickback scheme for the boss. This is about putting food on the table for workers. It's just starting to blow up."
The $1500-a-fortnight payment for eligible workers will be paid for six months from March 30 until September 27
However, the first JobKeeper payments will not be made to employers until May 1.
Originally published as Boss's blunt text over $1500 payment