Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Class Warfare Down Under.

In Australia, as in pretty much any other developed country, wages for workers in hospitality, retail, fast food, and pharmacy, even if paid according to the law (and often they are not) are miserable.


Take fast food, for instance. According to the official "Pay Guide - Fast Food Industry Award 2010" ("the rates in this guide apply from 01 July 2016"), the weekly wage before income tax for adults (permanent, full-time) varies between $738.80 for a level 1 employee (EL-1), to $805.00 for an EL-3 (in charge of 2 or more persons), for 38 hours of work during weekdays. Considering that "the average Sydney [for lease] property costs $480 per week", between 60% (EL-3) and 65% (EL-1) of his/her before tax weekly earnings would need to go into paying rent alone (frequently, in substandard conditions).

Given that, having an 8-hour shift on Sundays, instead of the same time on, say, Wednesdays, would lift a EL-1's weekly wage (before tax) to $816.48: he/she would still struggle big time to pay rent (now, it would be 59% of her weekly wages, versus 65%) but the additional $77.76 would help.

Not anymore. Now, they'll get a fraction of that (Update: the ABC News Online calculator).


How many people work in those industries? It's hard to say. Personally, I haven't seen employment figures at that level of disaggregation.

However, according to data that should be familiar to MPs and senators, if they bothered with data, in February 2016 up to 1.3 million people worked in the Retail Trade industry (11% out of an Australian total of 11.9 million) and 0.8 million in Accommodation and Food Services (7%): I may well be mistaken, but using that data, approximately 1 in 5 Australian workers, of all races, genders, ages, religions and sexual preferences, although I suspect they are disproportionately young.


I find it extremely difficult to be respectful and civil in this case, so let me just say that thanks to the ironically named Fair Work Commission, hospitality, fast food, retail, and pharmacy workers can say goodbye to that ease.

FWC president Iain Ross announced today that Sunday penalty rates for those people were slashed.

Like I said above, I don't know exactly how many people will be affected, but I do know how they look like: they look like this.

Ross himself is not oblivious to the harm that will cause:
" 'Many of these employees earned just enough to cover weekly living expenses,' Fair Work Commission president Iain Ross said."
I'm sure the FWC took that decision with a heavy heart, as our betters always do whenever they stomp on our necks. The FWC, we are told, considered many factors before throwing all those people under the bus. For instance:
"As we mention shortly, for many workers Sunday work has a higher level of disutility than Saturday work, though the extent of the disutility is much less than in times past."
Yep, you read that right: utility. You see, they measured the unmeasurable to arrive at that decision, all for the greater good.


Beyond utility considerations, reasons for that decision are mentioned by everyone concerned (More shops should open Sundays, yay! Lazy kids who normally spend Sundays in bed now can go to work, blah, blah, blah).

In my opinion, however, the reaction of Russell Zimmerman from the Australian Retailers Association, as reported by ABC News Online, is the most telling: he was "very happy".

I wasn't there to hear him saying that. I never saw his little eyes gleaming with greed and contempt for those workers (suck it up, losers!), but I could almost hear an old cash register: ka-ching.

Greater good? Yeah, right. And, make no mistake. After this, they'll go after Saturday penalty loads. Mark my words.


Australia is approaching more and more the capitalist utopia:


"There's class warfare, all right, but it's my class, the rich class, that's making war, and we're winning." (Warren Buffett to Ben Stein, 2006)

An old and extremely rich Yank said that about his country over 10 years ago. Everybody paid attention then, and quickly forgot all about that.

Another old man said similar things long before him. Nobody forgot him and they still slander him.

Australian Greens senator Richard Di Natale:
"Of course the Greens do not support the overthrow of capitalism or any other ridiculous notions of the sort".
Man, capitalism sucks.

I discovered a calculation error and corrected it, and added a link to the ABC News Online calculator.

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