The Guardian • Issue #2084


How’s work?

  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2084

It’s the great Australian question. For a lot of Australians the answer is “Not too crash-hot.” Employment is down. Full-time employment is down and part-time employment has risen. Thanks to cost of living increases roaring past wages, wages are – in real terms – down. How’s work? It could be a lot better – that’s the answer of people who are doing as much work as they were a year ago, but earning a lot less when it comes to how much food they can put on the table, and whether or not they can afford the latest rent increase.

For others the answer to this question is “What work?” A lot of Australians have given up looking for work, always good news for a government that doesn’t have to count them as unemployed. Another response to the question is “there isn’t enough of it”. A sizable chunk of the workforce is underemployed. Work’s okay but because of the cost-of-living crisis a lot of people need more money and hence more work and higher wages.

Not everything is going down. Part-time work is up. Food prices, bills and rent are up, which means that for a lot of people real wages are down. Overall, it looks as though employment is steady, since the unemployment rate remained at 3.9 per cent in December. However, the hours worked in all jobs decreased, as has full-time employment. There has been a net loss of jobs.

Labor knows that people are hurting, so they’ve leapt into action – sort of. What the ALP has done is tinker with a system they are never really going to change. They’ve criminalised some wage theft. They’ve moved to cut down on blatant attacks on wages by labour hire companies. As usual with Labor, these moves, good as far as they go, will not end casualisation or wage theft. There are exemptions that employers could drive a truck through. Employer lobbying groups scream like stuck pigs at any restriction of their power, but the truth is workers are still being routinely ripped off.

Labor remains determined to implement the stage 3 tax cuts, again possibly with some tinkering and the promise that all low- and middle-income workers will receive a cut in income tax. But the cuts still remain regressive, and those on incomes below the tax threshold will miss out.

What Labor won’t do is give workers the real power, such as the unfettered right to strike, that could change the situation. That’s not going to happen. The ALP strives to keep the big corporations, the people who own the economy, on side. They’ll never give workers real power. We’ll have to take it.

Join your union! Support the Communist Party of Australia. For communists the answer to “How’s work?” is that there’s a lot of it that needs doing! Our work is aimed at winning a society which is controlled by the workers who create the wealth. Frankly, we could do with a hand. So join us.

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