The Minister for Jobs and Small Business, Michaelia Cash, has been contradicted by her own department over how closely she monitors the amount of hours young interns are made to work as part of a government program.
The Minister’s fib comes as it was revealed that one intern participating in the program worked 58 hours in a week, and got paid just $100.
PaTH program promised a lot but has delivered little
The $840.3 million Youth Jobs Prepare Train Hire (PaTH) program was launched with much fanfare in April last year, and promised that over four years, 120,000 young people would be helped into jobs.
The four to 12 week volunteer internship requires the young job seeker aged between 17 to 24 to work a minimum of 25 hours a week and in return get paid $200 a fortnight, or just $4 an hour, on top of their regular welfare payments.
Businesses that sign up to the PaTH program receive an up front $1,000 cash payment per intern.
But according to a report in BuzzFeed News, the program has failed to deliver the promised results and has instead been plagued with problems, including instances of employers exploiting participants and some interns sustaining serious injuries while on the job.
In one case, an intern on the program working at a Melbourne coffee franchise was made to work 58 hours in a week.
That same cafe was also caught paying interns for overtime with $50 gift vouchers.
Minister contradicted by her own department
Today, Ms Cash told The Guardian:
“The Department of Jobs and Small Business closely monitors all internship placements to ensure program requirements are met.”
But her own department has confirmed that that statement is not true, saying that it doesn’t monitor the days or hours an intern works.
Instead, it is up to individual businesses to monitor that young people are not working more than 25 hours per week, or on public holidays.
“We don’t collect information on the hours that they work,” Greg Manning, from the Department of Jobs and Small Business told Senate Estimates last month.
“There is a requirement of 20 hours a week on average for [the bonus wage subsidy], so we know that, but we don’t collect data on how many hours each intern’s working and when those hours are.”
The report in BuzzFeed News details a litany of problems with the PaTH program, including that the internships had only attracted 5,473 participants, well short of the promised target of 30,000, and that just a handful of young people had managed to secure employment after completing one of the internships.
Internships easy way for employers to exploit young people
Miles Heffernan, Director of Litigation at Industrial Relations Claims, said internships are an easy way for employers to exploit young people.
“A program like this makes it very easy for a business to pocket a heap of cash from the government while also getting some free labour as a bonus,” he said.
“The fact that there is obviously no oversight from the Minister, or her department, despite her false claims, makes it easy for employers to take advantage of the program.
“The government wants to be seen to be doing something for young job seekers, but when you launch a program and then effectively wash your hands of it, well, the result is what we’re seeing here – a program that hasn’t delivered, and worse, has seen the exploitation of young vulnerable workers.
“Good job Minister, good job.”
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