Unions say the federal government is misleading Queenslanders in its attempts to justify its proposed budget cuts to paid parental leave.
Parents and workers formed a pram blockade outside a federal MP’s office today to show the community they would push back against the Coalition’s unfair cuts.
Queensland Council of Unions President John Battams said paid parental leave was like other government safety nets that operated with private sector support.
“Take the compulsory superannuation guarantee payment which employers willingly top up – the government doesn’t call recipients of that arrangement double-dippers or frauds,” he said.
“Unions will always seek to work with employers to ensure the best possible outcomes for society, and surely that’s a decent paid parental leave scheme that’s best for mothers and babies.
He said unions would work with business to stop the stripping of paid parental leave.
“Many hard-working parents have already bargained in good faith with their employer to reach agreements that will ensure those parents can care for their young family, both emotionally and financially,” he said.
The national ACTU congress last week resolved to defend all employees’ rights to access the government scheme as well as any entitlements achieved in bargaining, including working with employers to ensure they are able to continue their commitment to supporting women and employees with caring responsibilities.
Assistant General Secretary Ros McLennan said the blockade would show the LNP that parents accessing current arrangements were not “double-dippers”, “frauds” or “rorters”.
“The suggestion that women are ‘double dipping’ is an insult to working mothers and completely misrepresents the nature and design of the scheme,” Ms McLennan said.
Parent Naomi Drew said access to the government’s PPL meant mothers could afford to spend time needed to bond with their new child, and get breastfeeding off to the best start possible.
After accessing the PPL in addition to her own employer's maternity leave and accrued annual leave, Naomi's second son reaped the rewards of being breastfed until her return to work at 14 months.
“I wish every baby could have this and I think it is very short sighted of the government to penalise mothers with this change. The knock-on effects to public health because of falling breastfeeding rates will be felt for years to come,” she said.
The current universal Paid Parental Leave scheme introduced by the previous government was designed as a basic scheme for parents that would be complemented by more generous employer schemes taking women’s wages up to their full salary.
Complementing employer agreements with the government scheme could give new mothers 26 weeks of parental leave, which the World Health Organisation recommends to promote well-being for child and mother.
Ms McLennan doubted that Abbott and Hockey would manage to claw back their anticipated $1 billion from the PPL changes.
“The Chamber of Commerce has already said that business are likely to abandon enterprise agreements containing parental leave, which will put the federal budget back exactly where it started,” she said.