With the PM bedding down in western Sydney this week and the Opposition leader “guaranteeing” workers’ pay and conditions won’t be worse off under the Coalition last week, it’s likely the discussion will focus at least in part around workplace relations – a traditional ALP strength (which our research mostly confirmed last month) given profile in a once-traditional ALP heartland.
But what of the national sentiment regarding our working lives? Last week we asked people whether Australian “employers needed greater flexibility to create more jobs” or if Australian “employees needed greater job security”, or indeed if the balance was right.
The result: 38% agree most that employers need to have more flexible employment conditions, 42% agree most that employees need to have more stable working conditions and 21% agree the balance is right between the two sides of the industrial table.
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It’s an accepted truism that the 2013 Federal Election will be about “the economy, stupid”. It explains why Wayne Swan looked like he was about to pass out when a couple of days before Christmas he announced there would be no surplus, and why pundits predicting the timing and outcome centre their analysis around the May Federal Budget.
It’s a numbers game. Interest rates, the deficit, unemployment, the Australian Dollar, GDP, petrol prices, the cost of a basket of groceries, the dole, middle-class election bribes. They’re all crunched together to produce a perception of how the Government is travelling on the economy.
But all these numbers are going to mean very little to the growing number of Australians who, on paper, fall on to the good side of the ledger, but who in reality lose sleep every night with worry about what’s going to happen next week - our increasingly insecure workforce.
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My name is William Dai. I have not had work for almost two months. When I do work I never have a stable income. But other things are no different for me; I have to pay the rent and buy food. As a casual worker I don’t know whether I will get a shift tomorrow or not.
When you have no stable income, let alone any right to sick pay or annual leave, when you can’t count on work from Monday to Friday, there is no security.
I wait for a text message before I can go to work. Once I showed up for work on a Monday, after working full time hours the previous week, but I was sent home and told, “you can’t jut show up, you have to wait for a text message.” That means I might not be working for weeks or even months.
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As we enjoy the summer break this year many of us will beholidaying with friends and family, sharing Christmas lunch with our loved ones or finally opening those books we haven’t found time to read throughout the work year. But there are many workers who will have a very different Christmas experience this year.
Will Dai, a member of the National Union of Workers, works as a pick and packer in the warehouse industry but hasn’t had work in weeks.
He says he just wants a fulltime job but all he can get is casual work through labour hire agencies. Will is living off savings that will only last two more months.
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Here’s an offer too good to refuse. Start work at 6.30 – if you’re lucky – with no idea how many minimum-wage hours you’ll work.
You are there because your employer last night sent out a text message telling you there was a shift available. Every night you wait for your text to tell you if you’ll be working the next day or not.
You know that even if you ask for something simple, like a couple of days off for the birth of your child, there’s a solid chance your job won’t be there for you when you return.
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