While Covid19 has given us pause to think about how we go about our lives, it’s also hammered home pre-existing vulnerabilities in our society. One of the vulnerabilities exposed is the increased casualisation of our work force over the last two decades. The recent ‘work from home’ phenomena mostly applied to white collar, full-time employees, not those in casual hospitality, agriculture and or academia. So that’s cool. But not cool for the rest of us.
I’ve worked for ten years in the academic sphere as a casual employee. Last year, I turned up to teach the day after I broke a few ribs, because I had no sick leave and could not afford to pay another tutor to take my class. Life as a highly skilled, casual academic can be, in the words of a New Holland interloper, ‘nasty, brutish and short.’
The era of the ‘precariat’, where young people are being forced into a precarious casual work force, where their hours change every week, where they are ineligible for sick pay, compassionate leave etc and are always unsure of how they will pay their rent; they are being told how lucky they are … because their workplace is um flexible.
The recent commentary by politicians and employers (who have taken advantage of this system for years) is that Jobkeeper and Jobseeker are now stymying their efforts to reopen, and that potential staff are enjoying the dole way too much to apply for a job.
I cannot call bullsh*t on this argument enough.
Perhaps it is time to look at how government and business alike treat their casual workforce. A small business in a small town, for example, could give one employee permanent part time status, thus giving them security and a living wage that they could depend upon. What could result is a place of dignity and respect when it comes to our relationships between boss and employee. Is this a leap to Marxist? Doubt it. It’s just doing the right thing.