How good are jobs?
Only ScoMo, “Ya Radge Orange Barmpot’s” number one fan-boy Down Under could find something to crow about in Wednesday’s dismal ABS June Labour Force statistics showing jobs and hours worked are down. Yet statistics, fail to reveal the realities of wage theft, wage slavery, bullying and other types of coercion and exploitation, such as Neil Perry’s chef, Rohit Karki’s, working twenty hour shifts, day after day at The Rockpool Bar and Grill.
Rohit Karki earned twelve dollars an hour. Unable to get home and back in time, he slept on a pastry bench between shifts. Unpaid overtime is common. Australians work an average of six hours’ overtime unpaid each week. That’s $106bn of free work given to bosses every year according to The Australia Institute’s research published last November.
Australia suffers from an epidemic of overwork while other workers suffer underemployment; need more hours. Then there’s increasing wage-slavery.
Celebrity chef Perry was keen to resolve” payroll issues in October last year. He said that Rockpool, which employs 2400 staff and has a payroll of $100 million would backpay its workers $1.6 million to reconcile wages arrears. Words are cheap.
Wage theft is uniquely privileged in being treated not as a crime but as some absent-minded oversight. Imagine if Rockpool missed a bank payment of $1.6 million? Or if a party of guests left without paying the bill? Why do workers’ rights not have the same status? Perry’s announcement does nothing to remedy Karki’s predicament.
Karki is forced to make a federal court claim for six years of alleged underpayment. Originally from Nepal, his work conditions got a lot worse, he says, after he secured a 457 visa sponsorship in 2013. When he complains, he is bullied by a senior chef into taking on the work of three staff members; pressured into resigning.
How good is Karki’s job – and all the other hopeful, migrant workers he represents?
“This is another Dickensian example of wage theft and exploitation of vulnerable workers that is all too common in the hospitality industry,” says Maurice Blackburn Principal, Josh Bornstein, who is representing Karki. Exploitation can also mean underpayment of penalty rates, superannuation and leave entitlements. Industry Super estimates, for example, that one third of our workers are underpaid super; 2.4 million Aussie workers have $3.6 million per year stolen from them each year.
News of Rohit Karki’s case comes in the same week as Fair Work Ombudsman, Sandra Parker orders celebrity chef, George Calombaris, to pay $200,000 in a “contrition payment”, a penalty which she makes clear, on ABC 774, is “not a fine”. Calombaris must repay the $7.8m he owes workers and also appoint an external auditor to check pay and conditions until 2022. In an almost totally de-unionised hospitality workforce, exploitation is typically unreported. Bullying and intimidation are rife.
In 2018, the Fair Work Office (FWO) investigated 243 restaurants and cafes it targeted in Glebe in Sydney, Victoria St in Melbourne and Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley, reports Crikey’s Bernard Keane. It found wage theft in 38% of these eateries. Over 600 workers were owed $470,000 in unpaid wages. By comparison, the underpayment rate across all industries is around 27%. Something is broken in hospitality.
“Reform” may be on its way. With ScoMo’s miracle mandate, the Productivity Commission could revive its 2015 push to do away with awards and give workers an “enterprise agreement” instead. No time-wasting negotiating, just issue an ultimatum. Tell workers to take it or leave it. If we look at hospitality we are already there. Higher numbers of visa migrant workers makes hospitality a much easier workforce to exploit.
Fast-tracking applications from workers on skilled migrant visas is one of the Morrison government’s election pledges. If nothing changes, we can expect more injustice, more inhumanity and suffering among our nation’s most vulnerable group of workers.
Yet hospitality workers are not alone. Wage theft has become routine in certain sections of the nation’s workforce reports the ACTU; the exploitation of workers is now a business model. Agriculture, meat processing, retail and accommodation also all have a high incidence of underpayment of low paid workers. And it hurts, notes the ACTU,
“When low-wage workers are cheated out of even a small percentage of their income, it can cause major hardships like being unable to pay for rent, child care, or put food on the table. Above all, such wage theft is an injustice that demeans; degrades us all.
Wage theft from low paid workers is also detrimental to society, as it contributes to widening income inequality, wage stagnation, and low living standards—interrelated problems that drive inequality in our society.”
The ACTU argues that businesses such as 7 Eleven, Caltex, Pizza Hut, Dominos, Red Rooster and others must take responsibility for their flawed business models which invite wage theft and other exploitative practices. It notes that the government does nothing to address wage theft, or the integrity of employers. Instead, this fortnight, it aims to reintroduce Ensuring Integrity, a bill which attacks working people; an act of anti-union extremism that makes it unique in the western world.
Minister for alerting media to AFP raids on the AWU and other union-bashing acts, Michaelia Cash, stashes her whiteboard; joins fellow intractable, “Rottweiler” Morrison in a photo-opp spin and grin. Both smile maniacally on every news. How good are their jobs? “All credit no responsibility” says Karen Andrews in thought-bubble of the week.
“Leadership doesn’t mean taking responsibility,” Industry, Science and Technology (and trashing the Westminster system), Minister Andrews declares.It could be ScoMo’s motto. No sign on her desk like Harry S Truman’s spelling out “the buck stops here”.
Politicians serve a wider community and so should always consider others and have their best interests at heart, political economist and sociologist, Max Weber argued in 1919… without responsibility, the politician becomes selfish and interested first in their own careers and goals. Vanity and narcissism tend to reduce responsibility …
Australia’s jobless rate is tanking; plummeting below seventeen other OECD countries. Ninth in 2013, according to World Bank figures, we drop to 13th in 2016. Now we are 18th out of 36 on the latest ABS figures – and falling fast. No-one in MSM reports it.
Only a Morrison government can grin and spin such monumental failure. Unemployment is up from 4.8% to 5.2% in a few months, despite the Coalition hype that it’s steady. As housing slows in NSW and Victoria, expect it to reach 5.5%
Seasonally adjusted, only five hundred new jobs were created across the nation in June, despite market forecasts of 10,000. Monthly hours worked in all jobs also fall by 100,000 hours seasonally adjusted. Bernard Keane and Glen Dyer note some growth but at slower rate than May.
How good are these jobs? It depends on what and where they are. The mindless repetition of statistics is never accompanied by any acknowledgement of the declining quality of jobs.
Australia has one of the highest shares (13%) of employees working in short part-time jobs (defined as working 1-19 hours per week) among OECD countries, together with the Netherlands (21%), Denmark (15%) and Switzerland (13%).
One in four workers are in casual employment. Over half of all casual workers report they have no guaranteed hours, reports the OECD’s latest employment outlook. 36% of Australian jobs face a significant or high risk of automation. This means that a sizeable share of workers will need to re-skill or re-train to meet the needs of future jobs.
Labor notes that of the 2.6 million casuals in Australia, more than half have been with their current employer for 12 months and 192,000 for more than 10 years. In April former Labor leader Bill Shorten proposed that workers with a year’s employment with their current employer should be entitled to ask to be made permanent. Doubtless the proposal, along with Labor’s push for a rise in the minimum wage remains Opposition policy, yet it will be anathema to the Morrison government. Why make any changes when everything is working so well?
Pretence, subterfuge and denial come as easily to our PM as lying and racism comes to his mentor, Donald Trump. The PM lets everyone know he has a hot dinner date with his BFF 19 September. MSM repeat Scomo’s spin that it’s some type of honour to be feted by an increasingly desperate, dangerously degenerate president, who not only has no grasp of the issues but no interest in acquiring one, a populist who would declare war on Iran merely if it improved his re-election prospects.
Yet it’s an auspicious date, not only is it National Gymnastics Day in America, it is also International Talk Like a Pirate Day. This augurs well for ScoMo to offer immediate, unquestioned support – Aye Aye Cap’n to whatever it is his advisers let Trump do to Iran. Or be the ship’s parrot. Trump’s gymnastics, on the other hand, are noted by Roger Cohen who begins a fair and objective appraisal in The New York Times.
President Trump has been all over the place on Iran, which is what happens when you take a serious subject, treat it with farcical superficiality, believe braggadocio will sway a proud and ancient civilization, approach foreign policy like a real estate deal, defer to advisers with Iran Derangement Syndrome, refuse to read any briefing papers and confuse the American national interest with the Saudi or Israeli.
Aware that finesse is needed to resist ScoMo’s subtle sweet-talk, Donald Trump is clearly already training hard for his meeting with our miracle worker by calling London’s mayor Sadiq Khan “an incompetent” and “a stone cold loser”.
Diplomacy, like charity begins at home, of course and Michaelia Cash is rewarded for her sterling work in whiteboarding, media liaison and union bullying with her re-appointment to Morrison’s cabinet. It cost $282,000 just for her AWU case legal fees, a bargain for such a top performer. As Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business, she will continue, as always, to grow jobs like crazy as she oversees a Department of Jobs and Small Business. Keeps the whiteboard handy.
Industrial relations and union-busting stuff now become part of Attorney-General Christian Porter’s portfolio. Porter, of course, has his anti-union bill at the ready. He’ll call it a reform even though it harks back eighty years to Brazil’s dictatorship, according to The International Centre for Trade Union Rights based in the UK.
The Coalition’s “Ensuring Integrity Bill” breaches international conventions on labour rights by restricting workers’ freedom of association and collective bargaining, even when they are not involved in wrongdoing. ACTU President Michele O’Neil warns that the Morrison government’s proposed legislation is dangerous and extreme.
“All Australian workers benefit from the work of unions. If unions are shut down or silenced, who will stand up to the powerful, make sure workers get their rights and fight to improve workers’ rights?” she tells AAP.
“The Morrison government has overseen raids on journalists and is now attacking working people’s freedom to run their own unions. These are dangerous attacks on fundamental pillars of democracy.”
How good are jobs? Mostly you are likely to be overworked and underpaid in short-term, casual or part-time work. The OECD identifies one major reason why – the decline of unionism, a process ScoMo and Co are mad keen to accelerate.
“In Australia, the proportion of union members among employees fell from 45.6% in 1986 to 13.7% in 2018, while the proportion of employees covered by collective agreements declined from 83% to 58.9% over the same period.”
One result of an underpaid, casualised, de-unionised workforce is increased inequality given a helpful boost also from the Coalition’s tax cuts and its attack on our progressive taxation system. Average income earners pay more tax which helps to enrich the wealthy who now pay less. And among the wealthy are the fabulously rich merchant princes of our banking cartel which hasn’t fixed up its act at all after the Royal Commission.
How good is Ross McEwan’s new job? Guaranteed a fixed salary of $2.5 million PA just for showing up, starting April 2020, the new CEO of NAB, who pipped former NSW Premier and Pepsodent kid Mike Baird on experience for the job, will get $3.75 million extra if he hits “annual targets”. That’s a lot of upside, as they say. Add another $3.25 million a year based on the long-term performance of the bank and the former Kiwi, could be paid $9.5 million a year, all going well.
NAB was a stand-out performer at the recent Banking Royal Commission Show, earning censure, if not withering derision from Commissioner Kenny Hayne over charging fees for no service and for its culture of profits before people. NAB Chairman Ken Henry was forced to throw in his claw and CEO Andrew Thorburn was also compelled to explore other employment opportunities. Both appeared aggrieved at being unfairly singled out but why aren’t they in gaol?
Of course there’s more. Our banking cartel hates to see its CEOs begging in the street. Or “growing dope” and nicking stuff to get by, like our rural Newstarters, according to Barnaby Joyce. Topping it all off, new boss, Ross gets “vesting rights” which could take his pay over $10 million, depending on how NAB shares perform. They’re off to a good start with investors hugely comforted by NAB’s caring 2017 plan to make 6000 employees redundant by 2020.
Masters of spin, confirming it was sacking 180 workers in February, NAB avoided any references to job losses at all. Instead it was a restructure which “was designed to better align rosters with customer banking habits”.
The tough love of Newstart, fixed for twenty-five years is totally vindicated, despite advice to lift it from a Melbourne Cup field of experts. Even John Howard says it should be increased. The payment’s value has fallen forty per cent in real terms over that time but it would be folly to raise it above the poverty line, say ScoMo & Co. Madness. Starvation and beggary uplift and motivate; incentivise us to get jobs. Above all, turning your back on a neighbour in distress is good old Aussie mateship at its conflicted best. Even Labor now says you’ve got to convince the government yourself.
Besides, ScoMo and Co always would have us know, rorty Newstarters on the public tit, get heaps of supplementary payments. Suck our budgets dry. It is a fact, as he and Frydenberg like to remind us, that 99% of recipients are on other benefits, such as “parental allowance and other forms of support”. But it’s also true that the additional income is meagre. Fifty-seven per cent of us on Newstart receive only one additional payment, moreover – nine dollars per fortnight, Energy Supplement.
“We have one of the best safety nets, if not the best, of anywhere in the world,” Whoppers Morrison misleads us in May. The unemployed “don’t just live on Newstart alone,” he claims. “It goes up twice a year and 99 per cent of people on Newstart are also on other payments.” It’s a despicable, cynical act of damaging disinformation.
A single unemployed adult on Newstart gets $555.70 each fortnight. That’s $40 a day. Add in an energy supplement, a paltry $228.80 a year. Yet ScoMo would have us believe the extra 60 cents a day is a huge boost. If you’re sixty, or over, you’ll receive just over $600 a fortnight, after nine continuous months on Newstart. It’s a meagre increase which virtually guarantees you a life below the poverty line.
On DHS figures, Newstart recipients who also get rent assistance (about 28%) get an extra $55 a week on average. So they live on about $48 a day. For people to get the maximum rate of rent assistance of around $10 a day, they had to spend twice as much in rent to be eligible. In summary, the extra help averages out to about a dollar a day.
It is time the Morrison government dropped its nonsense and increased its welfare payments. It is not true that low payments increase your motivation to get a job, especially when there are at least eight applicants for every advertised vacancy and many times more in regional centres where jobs are fewer.
Tell the truth about Newstart being a poverty trap. Acknowledge that at least twenty percent of beneficiaries are on Newstart for five years or more.
Above all acknowledge the growing percentage of older Australians who are put on to Newstart and made to seek jobs which their age precludes them from. Until they qualify for the age pension. They lose their jobs to younger people and find their applications rejected by ageist prospective employers. The number of people aged 55-64 on Newstart has risen by more than 55,000 in less than five years. This group is growing by 10,000 a year and must cause a rethink in the Coalition’s callous inhumanity.
Older, working Australians deserve a new start, too. They can’t afford one on $40 per day, especially if they have to rent. Increasingly we are a society where it’s OK to see mature women who lose their jobs and their homes being forced to live rough or live in their cars.
Nothing your government has done yet has even acknowledge this vulnerable group, ScoMo. Drop the moralising “mutual obligation” slogan. These Australians have given their lives to society. They don’t owe you anything. It’s time you gave a little support back. Stop your prosperity gospel and exercise some Christian compassion.
Well overdue that is you drop the fetishising of jobs, ScoMo. Stop the meaningless statistical pressers every month. Start to look for quality of work not number. How good is a job? It depends entirely on where and what that job is. If it’s as CEO of a bank or as a Liberal Party cabinet MP, it can seem absurdly ill-deserved; a cruel reminder of our growing inequality. And of how the many in your Australia must subsidise the few.
If, on the other hand it’s in the 457 Visa jungle or in the increasing majority of dog-eat-dog de-unionised workplaces such as in hospitality or in agriculture, meat processing, retail and accommodation – or in employ of one of the many wage-slavers running franchises it’s likely to be a wretched, unfair, underpaid, uncertain and dangerous thing.
If you are young and in a regional or rural area, you probably won’t even get the hours you need to get Centrelink off your back, so you can expect to have to report your income and prove that you’re applying for jobs even though everyone knows – from Centrelink to your job provider – your applications are a waste of time.
How good is a job. ScoMo? Under the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Coalition government the experience of work has not been good at all, over all. Degrading, depressing and dehumanising if you must know. Wise up. It’s not the job, it’s the nature of the work that matters. And the workplace. It must, at least be safe, supportive and protect workers’ rights to be respected and valued.
Your IR policies, your vicious war on unions and on workers’ rights to organise; their right to expect a fair wage, fair dealing and safe conditions – has been nothing short of an indictment of your corrupted government and its capture by captains of mining, commerce and banking at the expense of those whom you were elected to represent and protect. Urgent reform is needed before the decline is irretrievable.