Wednesday, November 24, 2010

It’s Knock Off Time

So today is “National Go Home On Time Day”. This event has been declared in response to findings that Australians are working longer hours than any other Western country. And if that’s not enough, it appears that many of the extra hours are unpaid overtime. Research from the Australia Institute has found that Australian workers are “donating’ over $70 billion worth of overtime to their employers each year. Of course, the word “donation” implies choice, and while I’m sure that many people volunteer to go the extra mile in order to improve their chances of advancement, I am equally sure that this is not always the case. At least some of those who are working unpaid overtime do so for fear of losing their jobs, or because there is a workplace culture which will judge them harshly if they do not “love their job” so much that they are prepared to do it for free.

The plain fact of the matter is that involuntary unpaid overtime of this nature is nothing short of theft. It is a form of exploitation where the powerful take advantage of the vulnerable, stealing their labour for no financial reward. The truth is that any workplace with this kind of culture is going to find that the best and most capable employees will be the ones who get fed up with being treated like dirt and decide to leave. It is a culture which belittles the individual and demeans the worth of that individual’s contribution. It reflects a management attitude which is cavalier and autocratic, and which amounts to a kind of corporate serfdom where employees are expected to offer undying gratitude for the job that they hold, even if they are not being paid for what they do. And yet, if a plumber is called out to a job after 5pm he will expect to be paid for the hours that he works, so why should any of us be treated any differently?

And since today is “National Go Home On Time Day”, it’s now time for me to do my part and knock off. Good bye.

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