Ever since becoming a work place delegate for my union and attending one of their training courses last month my passion for the trade union movement has been recharged. It was great to learn how to contribute to a fairer workplace and how we can make a difference.If that makes me a trade union hack, it is a label that I proudly wear.
There are so many things that the union movement has fought for that I now take for granted and if these things were taken away, my life would be a lot harder and defiantly more complicated.
There were so many simple things that were negotiated for by the union movement that a person in permanent employment enjoys; things such as sick/personal/carers’ leave, holiday pay, and job security. There are also many other things that unions worked to set in legislation, such as workplace safety, penalty rates, holidays, overtime and a minimum wage.
As delegates, we were reminded of the consequences of casual and insecure employment such as poor financial security that could make secure a car loan or mortgage difficult and securing a rental property even harder. As with casual employment, there is no sick pay and no guaranteed work from one week to the next, meaning that supporting yourself becomes a lot more difficult.
Casual employment also affects people’s social lives, families and communities. When you don’t know when you have to work and you have to take any job that comes along, you can’t plan your social life ahead of time. You can’t commit to play sport, do things at your kid’s school or regularly attend interpretive dance classes. All this makes managing a work/life balance really difficult and has the potential for alienating people from the things that give meaning to their lives.
This is why the culling of penalty rates is so wrong. When people working in industries such as hospitality and in the health care system which requires them to work when the majority of the community are enjoying communal time off such as evenings and weekends so shouldn’t they be compensated for their sacrifice?
Having spent years in casual employment and juggling multiple part time jobs I remember how hard it was to do the things I loved when I had to always be available to work and any expense like music lessons, book clubs, going out with friends and attending sometimes pricy political and NGO events were a little hard to justify.
So as the state and federal governments work towards their agenda of privatisation and liberalisation, I will continue to be a union hack so that we can preserve things like penalty rates for those who work unsociable hours and permanent jobs over casual employment and fixed term contracts as well as deal with many of the other issues that people face when they go to work.