The Guardian July 10, 2002


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.

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