Wednesday, November 09, 2005
Ladies who don't lunch
Scarlet says she wasn't given a lunch break and they begrudged her going to the toilet. What a surprise! My experience as an AWU organizer in the services sector of the economy is that this is about par for the course. I recall back in the 90s when Woolworths in North Queensland started employing older women in part-time positions on check-outs. This was a sudden turn around. Prior to this the face on the check-out had been young people, predominantly female, working in full time positions. The Shop Assistants Award (Northern and Mackay Division) provided for part-time employment on one condition: that periodically the AWU would be notified with a list of the part-time employees. So Woolworths would not employ part-timers. There were changes to the Award and its part-time provisions. No longer was the AWU involved in notification of part-time employees. All of a sudden there came into the stores part-time employees - and they were older women, not the usual Woolworths teenagers on lower hourly rates. This was quite a change. One of my Union members, a supervisor, explained it to me. These women are employed for four hours at a time. The main purpose of the part-time employment was so that management did not have to be concerned with how to staff check-outs while full-time employees took a lunch break. On top of this, the older women (this generally meant married women) were not given work during school vacations when cheap casual student labour was available. So, all of a sudden, there were next to no full-time employees in Woolworths stores. Where once a career could have been built in retailing starting as a check-out chick, this now would be next to impossible. And all the while Woolworths would be able to say that it put more people in jobs. A bit of a hint - always ask what sort of jobs!