Someone called “John Bulance” had a go at Queensland Premier Campbell Newman on Facebook. Within a couple of days nearly 30,000 people had “liked” the entry.
This is the sort of response which would be good for a minor celebrity, and unheard of for an anonymous state paramedic.
“I’ll take the 2.2% (wage) increase and loss of penalties if you and you’re (sic) ministers also take a reduction in pay. Please ride with us for a day to see what we really do,’’ said “John”. When The Punch looked at his site some 28,400 “like” notices were attached.
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When Alan Joyce wakes up every morning, there is always the slim chance that several hundred people travelling in a metal tube branded with the Qantas insignia will have plummeted thousands of feet to their doom.
The CEOs of the Big Four Banks don’t have that problem. They fear falls of a less lethal kind. Wall Street plunges don’t kill. And unlike plane wrecks, there is always the chance of a rebound.
This might seem a dramatically ghoulish way to portray the inherent risks of two fundamentally different businesses, but it’s worth considering in light of Qantas’s paltry net profit of $43 million in the six months to December. Compare that to the $3 billion or so of the major banks and it’s like a Cessna to an A380.
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Is your job less secure than the one you had five or 10 years ago? Are you a casual worker, or on a fixed-term contract or getting temporary work through a labour hire company? But, at the same time, are you working harder and longer hours than you were?
If so, it’s not just you, it’s the Australian workforce as a whole.
Today, the reality is that 40 per cent of Australians are in some kind of insecure work. That’s the combination of people who are casual (which is a quarter of the workforce alone), on contracts, and in labour hire, as opposed to the normal definition of standard, permanent jobs.
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Until the dramatic events of Friday night, the Baiada Poultry dispute in suburban Melbourne had not had the publicity of Qantas. That’s a shame because the gutsy fight by low-paid Baiada workers is just as important in the fight for fair treatment at work.
Media coverage has focused on the clashes between police and workers, but has ignored the basic issues at stake. A couple of hundred low-paid workers have been forced to take legal industrial action because their employer has refused to bargain with them.
They are taking collective action in an attempt to stop the spread of insecure work – and ensure that Baiada workers on low wages have some certainty around their jobs and basic rights to sick leave and holiday pay.
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The Australian economy is in danger of being torn apart by the resources boom.
The high prices being paid for our minerals, the unprecedented foreign investment to dig up those minerals and the rising value of the dollar are already reshaping our economy. This is only the beginning.
It will end, all booms do, but this one will take some time and it will bring great change.
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Alongside coal, steelmaking has dominated the Illawarra economy for the better part of a century. The industrial landscape of Port Kembla continues to define the lives of the people that work and live in its shadow, the people that I represent in the federal electorate of Throsby.
When I left high school in the early eighties, the Steelers NRL team was still running around in the top flight (before merging with St George), and many of my mates took up apprenticeships with the company that sponsored the famous scarlet jersey, BHP Steel.
We were a steel city, a proud working-class town, just like our sister city of Newcastle. In many respects we still are. But just like Newcastle and in the other manufacturing regions around Australia at that time, the ground was already shifting under our feet.
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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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