Australian Unemployed Workers Union: Inside JobSeeker Jez Heywood’s charity
An unemployed graphic designer accused of making excuses for not working for six years has refused to answer questions about the ‘union for the unemployed’ which he controls.
Jeremy ‘Jez’ Heywood, 47, ordered Daily Mail Australia to leave his parents’ home in a well-to-do Melbourne suburb on Friday – despite being invited inside by his mum – before storming out and raising his middle finger.
Mr Heywood then returned to his granny flat behind his parents’ house and took to his favourite medium, Twitter, to tell Daily Mail Australia to ‘absolutely get ‘f***ed’.
Mr Heywood, or ‘JobSeeker Jez’ as he’s become known, says he’s been out of work for more than a decade, which triggered a ‘considerable mental breakdown’ in 2019.
Neighbours say he rarely leaves the granny flat, where he spends hours firing off tweets bemoaning what he claims is the unfairly low rate of welfare in Australia.
Mr Heywood is president of the Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union, a charity which is running a campaign to raise the rate of JobSeeker.
He is the face of the union’s ‘Raise The Rate’ campaign, claiming the $2.85-a-day rise trumpeted in the Budget will not keep those on dole above the poverty line.
Jez Heywood didn’t want to answer questions about his ‘union’ in Melbourne on Friday (above)
7 KEY QUESTIONS THE AUWU WON’T ANSWER
Daily Mail Australia tried for several days to ask AUWU office-bearers and media spokesman several important questions about the union without any reply before confronting Jez Heywood.
What was the outcome of the investigations into the ‘irregularities’ it notified the Charities Commission about?
Why has the not-for-profit charity run up profits of more than $114,000 over the last two years?
Why hasn’t that money been spent on the unemployed?
Why did it have more than $178,000 stashed away in its bank account? What will it do with that cash?
The AUWU told the Charities Commission it handed out $2500 in grants last year. Why does not show up in its detailed annual expenditure?
Why did it spend around a third of its entire expenditure over the last two years on ‘online/IT assets’ and ‘consulting and accountancy’ fees and who did that work?
Have any current or previous members of the AUWU’s committee of management, or businesses linked to them, been paid for work for the AUWU?
Daily Mail Australia can reveal the union is surprisingly well-funded, having $178,194 in its bank account, mainly collected from donations, many of them from other unemployed Australians like Jez.
Mr Heywood rose to prominence after becoming embroiled in a fiery bust-up with 2GB’s breakfast host Ben Fordham.
Mr Heywood demanded to appear on the top-rating breakfast show after Fordham challenged him to stop complaining about dole payments and instead get a job.
He took to the show on Wednesday for an eight-minute chat, which Fordham said would be a chance for Mr Heywood to find a job.
When Fordham asked if he was willing to do labouring, Mr Heywood said he did not have the physical capacity to do so.
The broadcaster then asked if he would take a part-time job in a pub.
‘The problem with those kind of situations is, I have a cousin who runs a supermarket and once I asked him if he’d employ me, and he said he wouldn’t because I have a postgraduate degree in graphic design and 20 years’ experience,’ Mr Heywood said.
The interview sparked uproar among Fordham’s listeners, with many calling in to accuse Mr Heywood of ‘making excuses’ not to work.
‘Just go out and flip burgers, to do something is better than nothing,’ one caller said.
‘I’m 71-years-old, I’m just leaving for work now so he can get an extra $40 a week from my taxes, I’ll call him a dole bludger,’ another said.
Fordham then questioned whether his mental health issues were brought on by the fact he was not working.
A tracksuit clad Jeremy ‘Jez’ Heywood, 47, wasn’t in the mood for talking on Friday
Mr Heywood films Daily Mail Australia in preparation for firing off a tweet telling the reporter to ‘get f**ked’ (above)
The Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union – which says it aims to to ‘alleviate poverty’ – is led by president Jeremy ‘Jobseeker Jez’ Heywood, 47, who says he’s been branded a ‘dole bludger’
His registered not-for-profit charity has more than $178,000 stashed away in its bank account, mainly from donations, and many from the unemployed
The union’s latest financial statement to the Australian Charities Commission shows they handed out an unspecified $2,500 in grants in 2022, about two per cent of the charity’s total income.
The details of those grants are not revealed anywhere in the breakdown of operating expenses, which accounts for every single cent of expenditure.
While the union claims to have 16,000 members nationwide, its latest official filling as an Incorporated Association shows they actually have just 54.
All its members also had to work unpaid for the organisation for at least six months before they were allowed to vote at its AGM under the AUWU constitution.
Its financial overview to the Australian Charities Commission for 2022 shows a $2,500 grant as part of its $31,756 expenses
No $2500 grant – nor anything similar – appears in the expenditure breakdown which reaches the same final $31,756 expenses figure as the broad overview
The union claims to have more than 16,000 members nationwide – but its latest official filing as an Incorporated Association shows the real figure is actually just 54
‘JOBSEEKER JEZ’S’ LONG HUNT FOR A JOB
AUWU president Jez Heywood, 47, lives with his elderly parents in a granny flat behind their detached bungalow.
He says he’s been trying to find a job ‘for more than a decade’ and has applied for ‘thousands of jobs, usually competing with a few hundred others’.
But he says in all that time, by 2021, he had just six interviews and only three job offers.
One made him redundant, he quit another because it was ‘toxic’ and another was at a company going out of business, he said.
He admits he had a ‘considerable’ mental breakdown in 2019 as a result of his long-term unemployment – but is now too traumatised to work a full working week.
‘It’s hard to find things that my brain can handle,’ he told 2GB’s Ben Fordham on Wednesday.
‘I can’t consistently commit to something. My brain just gets so incredibly exhausted.’
He was invited on air after lashing Fordham as a bully and a coward for implying he was a ‘dole bludger’.
But he admitted the best thing that had ever happened to him was when the JobSeeker rate was doubled during Covid.
Since registering as a charity two years ago, the AUWU has spent $62,234 on expenses from income of $177,053 to make a net profit of $114,820, boosting its savings to $178,194.
The charity’s biggest expense over the last two years has been the acquisition of ‘IT assets’ – believed to be its website, content and imagery – which cost $10,901 in 2021.
AUWU secretary Daniel Levy on Tuesday hailed the input of president Jez Heywood for being behind the look and feel of their website.
‘It’s definitely worth pointing out right now that if you’ve seen AUWU graphics in the last 3 or so years and thought ‘wow they look good’, that was Jez,’ he tweeted.
Daily Mail Australia is not suggesting Mr Heywood was paid for the work, but he and other office-bearers declined to discuss the union or how they will use the money.
In a note to the Charities Commission, the union admitted it has been rocked by an internal split which saw a previous management committee resign after questions were raised over finances, including their new website.
‘The matter is being investigated along with several other irregularities detailed in the annual report,’ it added.
The union then spent another $10,058 on legal expenses in the wake of the row, which made up a third of their total expenses in 2022.
The registered charity also signed off $7,272 on unspecified ‘consulting and accounting fees’ and spent more than $3,000 on travel and accommodation over the last year, along with another $2,126 on more online assets.
No further details are available about the recipient or recipients of the $2,500 grant the union made in 2022.
The nearest it comes to specifying any kind of a grant is a $700 ‘Honorarium’ which is usually a fee paid for work done voluntarily.
Despite the charity’s $178,000 surplus, AUWU treasurer Jeremy Poxon has previously slammed governments for having ‘modern surplus fetishism’ which was ‘deeply insulting’ to the unemployed.
‘[A] government’s ‘We’re going to achieve a huge surplus!’ rhetoric effectively translates to ‘Look at this giant pile of money we’ve inexplicably chosen to withhold from you,’ he told Junkee in 2019
‘After all what bloody good is a budget surplus if it condemns Australians to a life in poverty? A surplus is nothing to celebrate…’
Daily Mail Australia sent a detailed list of questions to AUWU – and Mr Heywood – without any response.
AUWU treasurer Jeremy Poxon hailed the graphics done by former designer and AUWU president Jez Heywood on the union’s website (pictured). The union has paid more than $13,000 for ‘IT and online assets’ over the past two years
THE UNION FOR THE UNEMPLOYED … THAT’S NOT REALLY A UNION!
The Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union was founded in 2014 but has never actually been a union
The Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union was founded in 2014 but isn’t a formal union.
It was registered as an Incorporated Association in 2015 and then as a not-for-profit charity in 2020.
Australian Council of Trade Unions Secretary Sally McManus has previously had to clarify the organisation is neither a registered union nor an affiliate of the ACTU.
Its website says it aims to ‘protect the rights and dignity of unemployed people and to alleviate poverty and disadvantage.’
It is funded almost entirely by scores of donations of under $1,000 from supporters, and was boosted by one single donation of $39,317 in 2020/21.
It has set up a free ‘national advocacy hotline’ which runs for four hours a day, five days a week, taking calls from desperate job seekers.
The AUWU says it aims to provide information resources for the unemployed and welfare recipients, while fighting for their rights.
It has also run surveys to canvass the opinions of the unemployed about life on JobSeeker and campaigned for a rise in the dole.
The AUWU website says it aims to ‘protect the rights and dignity of unemployed people and to alleviate poverty and disadvantage’