Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Millions Of Australians Work Overtime For No Extra Pay

Average Mortgage Payments For Sydney Homes Hit $3000 A Month

This story is a perfect example of why so many Australian workers don't like the ways in which prime minister John Howard is transforming their pay and working conditions, and therein, their home and social lives.

Workers are now saying goodbye to the standard working week (five days a week, eight hours a day) whether they want to or not, and most of them don't like it.

The Australian government can propose all the safety nets it wants to back up its industrial relations policies, and the corporate media can howl night and day on behalf of its big business clients about how Labor's plans to toss out most of Howard's IR changes will sink Australia back into some Depression-like union dominated dark age, but most Australian workers are not listening.

Well, they're listening, but not to Howard, or to the corporate media that takes the side of big business and the government.

They're listening to their friends and family members and relative complaining about the unholy hours they are racking up at the office or factory and how they aren't seeing any financial benefits. And they're recognising for themselves that working longer for less pay, while trying to meet soaring mortgage and debt commitments, is chewing up their lives and social time.

This is why John Howard and his coalition government are so far behind Labor in the polls, and have been since last year.

Howard is trying to sell them another part of his Dream Australia - no unions in the workplace, 'flexible' working conditions - but for many Australians the earlier parts of that dream they brought into, with Howard's financial and inspirational encouragement, primarily committing to property investments and first homes they now can't afford, is biting them all too hard where it hurts the most. They have to work longer hours to pay off the mortgage, but Howard's IR changes mean they won't necessarily earn more money for those longer hours.

Howard's Dream Australia is becoming a vicious, crippling circle for millions of workers, and they will vote for Labor because Labor is, so far, successfully selling them a way out of the hole they're in, or at least a better way forward.

From the Sydney Morning Herald :

Almost a third of Australian employees work unsocial hours - between 7pm and 7am - and even more complain they have no say about when they start or finish.

As the Howard Government seeks to soothe unease about its workplace laws, a Bureau of Statistics survey reveals the deep incursion work has already made into family and community life.

The figures show 37 per cent of employees work overtime or extra hours - and about half of them do so for no extra pay.

Thirty per cent said their shifts regularly overlapped the hours between 7pm and 7am as part of their main job. Three in five said they had no say about when they started or finished.

As for weekends, 16 per cent said they were required to work on Saturdays, and 8.5 per cent on Sundays. One in four were not always allowed to choose when to take their holidays.

"It is not just family life, but community life that is being compromised," said the director of the Workplace Research Centre at Sydney University, John Buchanan. "It just rips the heart out of the football team."

...a professor of industrial relations at Griffith University, David Peetz, said the shift was driven more by employer demands than employee wishes.

"I don't think people have decided, 'Gee, I wish I could work late at night.' Sometimes it is driven by employee wishes, but the trend we have seen over the long term, of an increasing incursion into the balance between work and life, is driven more by what employers want."

Dr Buchanan said the new laws had sped up a trend that was in place over the past two decades. "Work Choices legislation formalised the abolition of the standard working week."

And then comes the pain of the mortgage payments, using first home buyers in Sydney as an example. Howard promised in 2004 that he would keep interest rates low, while some of his election advertising promised record low interest rates would continue, which combined with more easily accessible loans, further encouraged young couples to buy their first homes. Then the interest rates started to climb :

The average monthly repayment needed to buy a typical first home in Sydney has hit $3000 for the first time.

This is up $442 on a year ago...

About half the increase is due to last year's three interest rate rises, which added almost $200 a month to repayments on a $400,000 loan.

The rest is due to rising home prices, which have forced people to take out bigger loans.

The NSW executive director of the Housing Industry Association, Graham Wolfe, said that even assuming interest rates remained low, housing affordability in NSW would not return to acceptable levels until 2022.

Mortgage repayments are now soaking up 38.5 per cent of an average first home buyer's income, enough to put them within the official definition of "housing stress". This is when people pay at least 30 per cent of their disposable income on mortgage repayments or rent.

Recent testimony to a Senate committee by the inspector-general of the Insolvency and Trustee Service Australia, Terry Gallagher, indicated Australian families are under increasing financial stress.

Mr Gallagher said bankruptcies had risen 12.5 per cent in the nine months to March.

"You could go back 10 or 15 years, when bankruptcy numbers were 13,000 a year, and now they are 30,000 a year," he said.

Keep in mind, too, that John Howard recently said in Parliament that Australian families had never been better off, meaning life was sweet under his government. If only he actually went and knocked on some doors.

Howard's You've Never Had It So Good line will no doubt come back to haunt him, as it should. It was an absurd and insulting thing to say to young families watching almost half their wages get chewed up in meeting their mortgage payments, while property prices started to fall.

Howard should have said no Australian prime minister had ever had it as good.

After all, he lives rent-free in one of the most beautiful and best-positioned homes on Sydney Harbour. A house owned by the Australian taxpayers, of course, who have also forked out for more than $1.3 million worth of renovations and new furnishings since John Howard moved in in 1996.

Australians Going Broke In Record Numbers

Housing Affordability At Lowest Levels In Two Decades

More People Working Longer For Less Pay : Howard's Gift To Big Business

Howard Promises Business Council That If They Help Him Win The Election, IR Changes Will Stay Forever

You Should Get More Than Free Pizza For Working Overtime....Maybe