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"The Greyed Depression" and Downward Pressure on Wages

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Ned K.

"The Greyed Depression" was the heading of an article in the Adelaide Sunday Mail on 13 March this year.

The article referred to statistics from DOME, a state government funded organization that provides training and employment services to people over 40 years of age.

DOME has 2000 people on its books looking for work compared with 1500 at the peak of the global financial crisis in 2008. Many of those over 40 who have found work through DOME have not enough hours of work to have anything like sustainable employment.

DOME's analysis of their last year's work showed that 60% of those who found work were only working 15 to 20 hours a week.

"Underemployment seems to be increasing...with the current job market, the number of people seeking help has been increasing, it's getting tougher", said DOME executive director Greg Goudie.

This situation will worsen with the closure of the car industry in South Australia which particularly hits the outer northern suburbs where high youth unemployment will be joined by higher mature aged unemployment. 

Some employers in the services sector see this as an opportunity to push down wages to below award minimum levels. However there are signs that workers are fighting back and taking action to prevent the downward trajectory of their wages. 

For example in the security industry recently, security workers were successful in having an enterprise agreement thrown out by the Fair Work Commission because its flat rate of $24 an hour for all hours worked on any day did not meet the Better Off Overall Test. 

This may seem a pretty insignificant occurrence but in a casualised industry where the risk for workers speaking out is high, the combination of workers saying "no" and being backed by unions prepared to do the legal leg work in the Commission, a small group of workers can make a significant difference in a whole industry where the race to the bottom in wages is out of control.

The growing unemployment in South Australia provides a headache for the Labor Government but any crisis is also an opportunity to take a different path for a government with the courage to do so. 

Renewable energy related industries and electric cars and public transport systems are there for the taking. The people demand sustainable jobs and sustainable future. If any government cannot provide it their time will be short lived.


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