Never has so much been done by so few for so little
Tasmanian unions have placed four key issues on the state election agenda based on a Fairness at Work campaign. They are: fair wages; secure jobs; reasonable hours of work and working time flexibility; fairness in bargaining. "Unions have asked political parties to demonstrate how their policies will help to lift Tasmanian incomes to the target levels set as part of the Tasmania Together process", said Unions Tasmania Secretary Lynne Fitzgerald. "This includes the goal that Tasmanian median wage levels will be lifted to the national average by 2010. "We want to see real commitment, not platitudes." Higher wages Being a low paid worker is tough: it means going without things which the rest of the community take for granted — new clothes, basic appliances, socialising and taking holidays. It means juggling bills, borrowing from friends and family, serious levels of financial stress and in some instances serious levels of debt. Every year the union movement applies to the Industrial Relations Commission for an increase in the minimum wage. The first Living Wage claim was made in 1996 and the gains made for low-paid workers since then have become synonymous with the work of unions. Decent minimum wages do not put pressure on inflation, interest rates or cost jobs. On the contrary, they increase the purchasing power of those workers. The additional purchases act as a stimulant to the economy, tending to generate, not destroy jogs. At present job prospects for the unemployed in Tasmania are bleak, and the employment participation rate is considerably below the national average. Secure jobs There is a growing division between workers who are in secure, career- oriented jobs and the increasing number of casual and part-time workers whose jobs are often precarious. According to Australian Bureau of Statistics surveys almost one third of part-time workers would like to work more hours, yet the number of persons holding more than one job has almost doubled in the past decade. This means that many people are working in multiple part-time jobs in order to make ends meet, while others have no paid work at all. The percentage of part time workers who worked 15 hours or less per week (of all part-time employed) was 51.4 percent in 2000/01. With 29 percent of Tasmanians now employed as casuals, only the fiercest advocates of labour market deregulation would continue to argue that the casualisation of the workforce is not a serious social issue. Sixty percent of all "casual" workers have worked in the same job for more than a year and more than 20 cent have worked in the same job for more than five years. This clearly reveals that these workers are doing the work of permanent employees. Undoubtedly their employers expect them to be regularly available, punctual, efficient and reliable. Additionally, these "casual" workers may develop the skills and knowledge of permanent employees and will often become an indispensable part of an employer's operation. However, because they are employed as casuals they enjoy none of the (relative) job certainty of permanent employees and are too often denied access to the most basic entitlements like sick leave, annual leave, public holidays and redundancy payments. And despite reassurances from their employer that their employment will be ongoing, they will find it almost impossible to get a loan from a bank. Shorter hours The standard working week no longer applies to most Tasmanian workers. Despite achieving the eight-hour day over a century ago, one in four employees now works more than 49 hours per week. The pressure to work longer, less predictable and often unpaid hours is stretching people to the limit. The feeling in many workplaces is that never has so much been done by so few for so little. Job creation along with shorter working hours along with permanent jobs and full entitlements are big issues for workers in the Tasmanian elections.