The Guardian August 29, 2001


Report launched to promote the smart young casual

by Bob Briton

People attending the Adelaide launch last week of the Smart Casual 
Association's report on the situation of young casual workers in Australia 
gathered around the "wheel of misfortune". Young people came up, took a 
turn each and waited while the wheel slowly came to a stop on a 
"prize".

Someone landed on "You will work a shift while sick". Another young hopeful 
got "You will be sent home early from a shift". Also on offer: "You will be 
forced to sign an AWA" and "You will work unpaid overtime" and so on.

It was a comic moment that drew attention to a very grim reality. The 
report by the Association, entitled "Don't Bother Coming in Today  Casual 
Work, Casual Nature", contains the results of surveys conducted throughout 
Australia to assess the situation facing young casual workers today. 

The figures from the 1,409 respondents are astounding. Among the findings:

* 55% didn't know their correct rate of pay;
* 33% were working unpaid overtime;
* 75% of those injured at work had reported their injury, 22% of this group 
reported negative repercussions;
* 61% had worked while they were sick;
* 41% of national survey respondents wanted more hours. In Adelaide 26% 
wanted permanent work;
* 51% experienced repercussions for refusing shifts.

The Association and the report are initiatives of the Young Christian 
Workers, a community based organisation with origins in the Catholic 
tradition.

The report carries a lot of statistical information but its most powerful 
arguments come in the form of the first hand experiences of the young 
workers.

After hearing some background information from group member Emma Thornton, 
Alea Peremiczko passed on some of their stories to the Adelaide gathering:

"Jackie has just started a new job at a restaurant. She has extensive 
experience in the retail industry, but has never worked in the hospitality 
industry.

"She did not receive any training for this new position and has 
consequently badly burned her arm from hot dishes, as she doesn't have any 
experience with carrying the dishes. She doesn't want to tell her boss or 
ask about first aid because she is scared she will lose her job.

"Matt is at high school and working casually at a local shopping centre. 
This is his first job and he has been working since he turned 15. He has 
always been a high achiever at school but his last report showed a 
significant drop in grades.

"He knows that this is mainly due to the fact that he has been working 
every night after school and all weekend but he doesn't want to ask for 
fewer shifts in case he doesn't get any at all.

"Chris has been working casually in the same position at a chemist for five 
years. She has a lot of on-the-job-experience and has now been trained in a 
number of different areas.

"She knows that she is a valuable staff member. Recently her hours have 
been cut to one or fewer shifts a week so that some of the younger staff 
can have more hours."

Adelaide Co-coordinator of the Association is Greg Smitheram. He focussed 
on the objectives of the campaign.

Young workers are calling on Governments to stop the over-casualisation of 
the workforce, to ensure that casual workers who are employed by the same 
employer for more than six months on a regular basis are given the 
opportunity to be made permanent.

He detailed the recommendations to the various State Education Departments 
that students have, as part of their curriculum, information about their 
rights upon entering the labour market and about the benefits of trade 
union membership.

The recommendations to the trade union movement were taken up in an address 
from United Trades and Labor Council Vice President Janet Giles.

She said that, while unions have traditionally focussed on those in full-
time and permanent work, the facts of the labour market today are obliging 
unions to work more with casual workers to achieve improvements in 
conditions, to strive for permanency and to promote union membership.

She pointed out that Australia has the most casualised workforce in the 
world (44.5% of young workers according to statistics contained in the 
report but with only 21.9% of those surveyed belonging to their union). 

Janet drew attention to some important gains that have been made recently.

The metal division of the AMWU won a guarantee of permanency in Victoria 
last November for casual workers employed for more than six months.

She said that she will be taking the Smart Casual Association's report and 
its recommendations back to the UTLC for consideration of how it can help 
in achieving its aims.

Further information on the campaign can be accessed on the group's website:

http://www.turn.to/smartcasual/

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