SDA members can lead by example

March 30, 2021 News

Justin Power, Assistant Secretary

We’ve all seen the gaze of a baby staring at their mum or dad and watch in wonder how the baby listens to each spoken word, studies every movement and takes everything in.

Fast forward four or five years and watch how this excited new school student studies the actions of the older kids, listens to their banter in the playground and ponders the future.

Fast forward 10 or 15 years and watch this young adult cope with the realities of their first job. No doubt they will try to look, listen and learn as much as possible in the first few weeks. By then they will quickly realise whether they enjoy the job or not, whether management are reasonable or manage through intimidation and bullying and whether other co-workers stick up for themselves and each other or are quite prepared to be stood over by management.

The new employee will learn very quickly whether staff take their breaks, refuse to work unpaid overtime and stick up for their rights. In many respects, they will take their cue from their older work colleagues.

  • What example are you to new employees?
  • Are you an employee who sticks up for their rights in the workplace?
  • Are you an employee who knows and understands their entitlements and does not shy away from standing up for them?
  • Are you part of a culture which supports new workers?
  • Are you a part of a culture which looks out for each other in the workplace?
  • Are you an SDA member who encourages non-members to join the SDA?

Returning employees

It is also important to look out for returning employees as many workers can have up to 15 -20 different jobs during their working years. These returning employees could have taken parental leave, tried their luck in a different industry or taken time out to look after an elderly parent. Whatever the case, we need to remind returning employees that they will need to complete an SDA application form so they can once again enjoy the benefits of SDA membership.

Don’t be fooled

Over the years I have been fascinated by some employers and economists who argue that Australian wages are too high. Invariably, their follow-up argument centres on Australia’s need to compete against other countries that have a lower wages structure. I have followed these arguments for over 30 years and I am convinced that I far prefer to live in a country which has a fair wages structure coupled with a compassionate welfare system.

On the domestic front, these same employers and economists argue that the problem with unemployment and underemployment is that wages are too high in this country. They then argue that if we could reduce the weekly wage or penalty rates, employers could afford to employ more staff.

The best example I can give you is that retailers and fast food employers recently argued in the Fair Work Commission that if weekend and public holiday penalty rates were reduced, they then would be able to employ more labour. The Commission subsequently endorsed the reduction but in the real world, we all know that not one extra employee has been employed as a direct result of the penalty rates reduction.

Similarly, if employers could cut wages in half, would they then employ twice as many staff? Once again we know that in the real world, employers would not employ one additional staff member as they only employ the absolute minimum number of workers they need to run the workplace.

Positive action

Just like we did in 2020, the SDA will once again argue that our members are a vital cog in the Australian economy and therefore deserve a fair and decent pay rise. In fact, it was acknowledged by many commentators including the Prime Minister that SDA members have been essential workers during the pandemic.

We will pursue a fair and decent wage increase in the Fair Work Commission with the ACTU in late April/early May and we expect the decision to be handed down before 1 July, 2021. We will equally argue that the increase MUST not be delayed as it was in 2020 and therefore, the wage rise MUST be payable from 1 July 2021 and not a day later!