More than two million Australians are in casual or temporary work. The majority of these people are mums or women carers who are forced into casual work to achieve the flexibility they need. Many are experiencing financial stress because they don’t have a steady pay packet. Add into the mix the high cost of child care and other cost of living pressures, and you can see how easy it is for a family to fall into crisis.
In this Radio National interview this morning, ACTU President Ged Kearney explained why job insecurity is such a critical issue for women caring for kids:
Women with caring responsibilities need flexibility… But because they need flexibility, they are being forced out of decent work and into casual work where they lose all of their entitlements. Now the most important thing to me as a mother of four children was to have paid carers leave when my kids were sick. And I could have that because I had a good, decent, part-time job. But if you are a woman with caring needs and if you are forced into casual work, the minute your kids are sick, you lose a day’s pay.
At a two-day summit on job insecurity that ended today, Ged called for a ‘new social compact’ that provides workers with flexible security and portable entitlements in return for their high productivity.
If you can relate to these issues and want to learn more, Ged’s passionate speech yesterday is worth a look. I have pasted below the words that resonated most strongly to me. Well said Ged!
…The expectations of both business and workers about work have changed.
These changes have been one-sided and largely undebated, because the power of business has not yet been checked by large scale campaigns with workers interests as part of a ‘renegotiated’ social compact.
And the space for such debate has been considerably narrowed in a world dominated by a conservative media and counter campaigning by corporate interests.
Business now expects more flexibility, but for far too many workers, so far, this flexibility has been all one way.
When I talk to workers I feel a sense of bewilderment as to how we came to this point.
When did it become okay for your boss to demand you work unpaid overtime, or risk losing your casual job?
Why are mothers expected to be workers, but employers are allowed to ignore the fact that their workers are also mothers?
For most workers juggling multiple jobs, or being on a series of short-term contracts or working an ever-changing combination of casual shifts, are jst what they have to deal with to pay bills.
These pressures still hit women more than men because of our assumption that caring is a female responsibility.
Acceptance of the situation does not equate to endorsing it, or wanting it for our children.
For a minority of workers with in-demand skills that can command a high wage, the new workplace may mean the chance to work overseas, to work for a variety of organisations, or to spend some time as a freelancer.
But for most it simply means less certainty about where they will be in a year or two years’ time, less financial security and more stress as households juggle two or three jobs as well as a range of childcare arrangements.
Too many families are on a treadmill of temporary work, experiencing periods of under-employment or unemployment which burn through their savings.
The so-called safety net of the Newstart allowance is woefully inadequate, and far lower, compared to average wages, than in the past.
The ever present threat of losing a job magnifies the angst about cost of living pressures and housing affordability.
Just as employers have attempted to shift all the risk back to workers, so too have governments attempted to shift responsibility back to citizens.
[Source: The Union Vision for Work and the Secure Jobs Agenda. Address by ACTU President Ged Kearney to the National Community Summit: Creating Secure Jobs and a Better Society, Old Parliament House, Canberra, 13 March 2013]