Food for Thought 4
Life at work these days
We need to question the structures of a
workplace relations system that allows for the denial
of the dignity of the human person at work by
regarding them as factory robots to be managed
via mere statistics.
Recently a 16 year old worker at a national
call centre hit the news headlines. He revealed that
under work conditions at the call centre staff were required
to stay in ‘ready’ mode and cope with only a
12 seconds break in between calls; 12 seconds
in which to recompose themselves and set up computer
screens for the next caller. They were expected to do
all tasks related to any call during that call and were
not to leave their desks more than 4 times a day.
There is no room for negotiation or complaint in
such a scenario. (The young worker was sacked after revealing
he intended to write a complaint to the management.)
No room either for union support for workers
on AWAs still under a long ‘probation’ period
and therefore not eligible for consideration of a claim
for unfair dismissal. There is also no room for the development
of teams, company loyalty, simple comradeship or even
the ‘resolve and commitment’ demanded of
the workers for the job. The only options left to workers
in such a workplace are to put up with petty
tyranny or to walk out the door.
Byte on WorkChoices
Last week the first report of a major piece
of longitudinal research into WorkChoices described
key results since the introduction of the legislation.
In a balanced academic way it shows that low
skilled (and therefore generally low paid) workers are,
on average, $100 per week worse off on AWAs.
The Government’s response was quick, with well
worn yet effective tactics designed to stop the
message: create a fracas by smearing the personal
reputations of the key academic researchers and the commercial
reputation of the research centre, lie, and attempt to
politicise the public service by claiming that Bureau
of Statistics (ABS) research backed the Prime Minister’s
statement that wages have increased under AWAs.
These tactics worked, yet again. The waters have
been thoroughly muddied and the ensuing
fracas has focused the limelight on the personal
attacks and personalities and away from the substance
of the research and the issue. This research
project required stringent peer review from 77 other
academics as well as substantial ethics consideration
and agreement by the Minister for Education, Science
and Training before being given the go ahead and substantial
government funding from the Australian Research Council.
Additional funding was also received from Unions, a fact
the government claimed sullies the value of the research
and the academics, but these days the business of research
is funded by a range of bodies including Business Councils,
NGOs, Churches, Governments and Unions.
Meanwhile the ABS announced that they have done
no research into AWAs and the academics have
threatened to sue Joe Hockey for defamation.
One last byte
At least one major retailer has
now turned its back on AWAs and the WorkChoices environment and
has turned instead to the relevant Union to negotiate
a new collective agreement for its workers. In the
industrial turmoil of the past year and a half and
the confusion and administrative work the legislation
has created, this company may have come to the realisation
that happy workers with fair and decent pay
and conditions are more productive workers.
I would hazard a guess and say they probably don’t
need statistics to see that a happier collective creates
a more positive work environment conducive to bettering
customer service and a company’s bottom line. The
dignity of the human person cannot be quantified yet
counts for quality of work and life.
Food for Thought 5
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