Saturday, June 12, 2010


Many years ago when workers were in many cases exploited by their employers the unions fought on their behalf to make working conditions better. In many cases the unions were greedy but on the whole they at first did a lot of good to make the life of the working man/woman (or even children way back then) quite tolerable.

One of the things they fought for was a shorter, more reasonable working week. I can remember daubed in large white letters on the side of Mount Eliza (in white paint I guess) the words 44 HOUR WORKING WEEK. This was probably when I was a teenager back in the 1940s and eventually this came about and later still we had a normal working week of only 40 hours.

The banks and insurance companies were the first to stop being open on a Saturday so their employees worked a five day week. The banks etc did it gradually by rostering staff to perhaps work one Saturday in three until Saturday work ceased altogether and their doors were closed for the weekend. The shops of course remained open on Saturdays until midday and there was no late night shopping. Many stores opened from 9am and closed at 5.30pm and yet people seemed to manage to always get to the shops OK. There were often little family run corner stores that would perhaps open over the weekend and of course we usually had our bread and milk delivered so no need to worry about getting them at the shops. (before the days of refrigerators we also had our ice for our ice chests delivered and I wonder how many can remember that?)

I recall at one period during my working life when we only worked a 35 hour week. That was in an office in the 1960/70s when we worked from 9am to 5pm with an hour for lunch. Work it out...5 days at 7 hours per day - 35 hours per week. I then joined a state government department and our working week was two and half hours longer and I think the pay was a little less but it was a terrific job so I didn't complain at those differences.

This week I read a small piece in the Sunday Times that said that one in four Australian workers are now are now toiling FIFTY or more hours per seems that "working nine to five with an hour for lunch is SO last century".

It appears that one in four working Australians now eat their lunch at their desk with about one in six skipping lunch altogether. A survey of 600 workers by McCrindle Research found that 28% of employees ate lunch at their work desks. This to me doesn't sound particularly physically or mentally healthy but then what do I know? I am not sure what a survey of blue collar workers would show as I feel that they are required to take breaks during their working day, for safety sake if nothing else.

I know very little about so-called workplace agreements or work contracts but I can't see that anything that has occurred during the past say 10-12 years has done much to help the workers except perhaps give them more and more pay and longer working days. Is it greed on the part of the employer and the employee that is causing these longer working weeks? What happened to the days when we were quite content to have a nice 'little' home to live in with comfy furniture and a nice garden? Why is that people are building bigger and still bigger homes? Do people really need home theatres, spas etc. etc? They certainly don't have the room outside their homes to do much exercise or for the kids to play. The houses are bigger and the blocks getting smaller and smaller.

My OH and I are perhaps fortunate in that we have never wanted to keep up with the Joneses or been particularly ambitious so maybe that is why we were (and are still) content with what we have. Sure, we would be better off with a little more than we now have but that is not to be 'cos those lotto numebers just dont come up and we are both too old to have some rich, forgotten great aunt who just might die and leave us a small fortune.

Joking aside though.....I feel so sad that people are having less and less leisure time to spend with their families and I do think that children often suffer not having what we once called normal family lives when we all sat around the dining table for the evening meal and talked about the events of the day or perhaps listened to the evening news on the radio.

I really hoped that the 21st century would turn out well but I am beginning to think that in many ways, regardless of a depression and two great wars (not to mention several minor wars) the 20th century may have been better after all. When was it that people became so dissatisfied with their lot in life and wanted more and more and more? I really can't help thinking that greed is what drives too many people in this modern age.


  1. I know I don't work longer for greed, or that my work is greedy. There is however more work to do as the government is constantly down sizing its staff. No one makes you work more than 37.5 hours, but if the work needs to be done then if you are like me you do it, for no extra money. So while a few may have greed as an motivator, I can say that a lot of us just do what is needed.

  2. This was not aimed at anyone personally but rather a generalisation after reading the article in the paper. I don't think it right that any employer should feel they own an employee completely, both body and soul, as that seems to be going back to the dark ages when that actually did happen.
    I feel that there are people who may be ostracised by fellow workers because they try and lead a normal family life and don't always work extended hours beyond the norm.
    I believe if one wants to receive payment at the end of the week/fortnight/month they they should fulfil their duties to the very best of their ability and have a good work ethic but I am convinced it can be carried too far.
    I am glad you like the new format....books have always been a large part of my life so it seemed appropriate.