Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas List

All I want for Christmas is, well let’s see…. Let’s draw up a wish list and see what we can come up with. Maybe first up we could all wish for our Christmas mail to be delivered on time. For some of us that may not happen due to the industrial action which has been taken by the CEPU against Australia Post. While it’s tempting to pin all the blame on the union for timing the action to cause maximum interruption, it also has to be realized that the dispute has been dragging on for three years. In that light, you have to wonder just how serious the management of Australia Post is about actually negotiating.

The union claims that the management agenda is to casualise the workforce, removing job security and eroding conditions, while at the same time reducing overall staff numbers resulting in a decline in customer service standards. They say that customer queues at the post office are getting longer, and anyone who has been to a post office lately would probably agree. It is a reflection of the broader business management philosophy endemic in the world today which dictates that efficiency means achieving more with less. By that reasoning the ultimate efficiency is a workplace with no staff and no products and customers who pay them for not doing anything at all. It is self evidently nonsense, but the entire business world has fallen for it. And Australia Post isn’t even a private company, although I have to wonder just how much longer that will last.

In fact, it is a contagion which has long since spread to government entities of every variety. That’s why we have governments telling their agencies that they must deliver so called efficiency dividends, despite the simple fact that nurses in hospitals, teachers in schools and police on the beat are not businesses at all. There is no such thing as productivity in the industrial sense when it comes to the provision of such community services. The idea that less is more just doesn’t work in that context. Instead all you get is less. Less employment in the public sector, less job security, less service to the community, less quality in the services that you do get, and less community satisfaction.

So, as we draw up our Christmas wish list, let’s add genuine reform to health and public hospitals which acknowledges the input of the doctors and the nurses and the communities that they serve, instead of just the empty promises which have so far delivered nothing more than platitudes. Let’s add sustainable, integrated public transport for our cities, but especially Sydney which has an increasingly splintered scattergun approach to public transport. Just because it costs the taxpayers money doesn’t mean that it’s inefficient. In fact, it’s an investment in a better community, especially in the light of the latest research showing the increasing greenhouse gas impact of having everybody driving private cars.

But most importantly, as we make our list of Christmas wishes, I think we might wish for a little more kindliness, a little more caring, a little more courtesy in what seems to be an increasingly belligerent society. That’s not something that we can expect our politicians to do for us, but it is something that we can at least contribute to achieving for ourselves. We can all do our part to make our community a better place by being a little more patient with each other, a little more tolerant, and a little more considerate. It is after all a part of the Christmas tradition to spare a thought, and maybe a little more, for those who are less fortunate, and to share peace and goodwill with all.

In fact, that’s probably the most important part of the Christmas spirit of all, and that should be at the top of any Christmas list.

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