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The NRA’s move to apply for a change to the Modern Awards of the Fair Works act that provided a minimum of 3 hours to casual workers was successful. The FWA considered the arguments presented by both sides in the matter and chose to take the NRA’s side albeit with a compromise.
The main reason as to why the NRA was pushing for a reduction in the minimum working hours for high school students in the retail industry is to provide more employment opportunities to them.
It was noted that most retail shops tended to close shop a few hours after students had finished their classes for the day. For instance, students who would leave school two hours before the local news agency closed would be unable to report for a shift because of the formerly stipulated clauses (Stewart, 2011, p.10).
The NRA’s position
The revision of the General industry award would have been in line with Modern Award objectives. The objective of interest being that of promoting social inclusion through increased workforce participation ( Watson., 2009).
The NRA argued that the amendment of the award would create more employment opportunity. It is through these employment opportunities that the NRA hoped to make social inclusion possible.
Another interesting perspective put forward by the retailers was the possibility that longer working hours created by a 3 hour minimum would deter better academic performance from students ( Burke and Davey, 2011, p.3).
The Unions’ Perspective
The economies at play did not favour students. The reduction of minimum working hours for students to 90 minutes would see their overall earnings decline. This could ultimately disincentivize the student workers from seeking employment.
The wages earned would barely offset the cost of reporting to work hence making the effort unfruitful. The argument against this factor however seeeds to be that most of the casual jobs offered to such students were in the localities of their neighbourhoods hence the travelling costs raised were not considered significant.
Others put cross the idea that the students parents are responsible for catering to such costs and this would hence not be a problem for the students. The unions were also against the shift due to the fact that it would create less opportunities for older workers who were viable for such short shifts.
Adopting the new minimum shift clause would create a low paid market of high school youngsters who would replace the older generation whose rates were much higher. This hence created a picture of an exploitative mechanism set to minimize running costs for the retail industry in an unethical fashion.
Some students shared the view that the modification woould be beneficial while others did not agree. Those who did might have bought into the argument that more jobs would be made available to them with the changes.
For instance, those students who previously did not have a chance to fill in for casual positions due to a tighter study program would have reason to appreciate the new terms. There was also the idea that a wider variety of jobs that were previously unavailable would be given to the students.
With this perception in mind, the advantage to high schoolers would be the fact that they would engage in more challenging duties.
For those students that did not agree with the minimum shift requirements, a number of reasons stand out. The first and more obvious reason being the possibility of earning less by working for fewer hours. a ninety minute shift in an entire day was likely to earn a student as little as eleven dollars (Lawrence, 2011, p.11).
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This kind of wage would be of grossly low worth to workers who traveled from distant areas to report to work. There would hence be no economic sense left in the arrangement (Wooden, 2009).
Another problem that was brought about by the new shifts was the experience gained by workers. The amount of time that an average student would take to gain proper hands on experience and work values would become much greater. One and a half hours per day is hardly enough time to allow a new worker to settle down quickly in the workplace.
The idea that the new shift requirements would create more employment opportunities was subjective to the circumstances under which the job were going to be provided.
For retailers, the implications of introducing the new shifts were clearly positive. In my view, there are a number of arguments used to promote the shift that do not not hold much weight in the matter. For instance, social inclusion might less likely be achieved by reducing working hours.
On the contrary it should be sought by increasing them. Quite ironically, the modification seems to overlook other objectives of modern awards. For instance, it does not support the preservation and improvement of living standards for the low paid. This cannot be achieved if less wages are paid to student workers.
However, one thing that the new shifts will promote is an equal opportunity platform for the recruitment of casual workers in the retail industry. Students who were not able to work because of their long school days will obtain employment. It is important to see that the 1.5 hour shift set was but a minimum.
It would not automatically subject all other students to shorter shift especially if an decrease in productivity and cost efficiency was at stake.
Burke, K & Davey, M 2011.’The after-school job is the comeback kid.’ The Conversation: 21, June. p.3.
Lawrence, J 2011. ‘Shorter shifts leave workers out of pocket.’ Newcastle Herald: 22, June. p.11.
NRA, 2011. Minimum Hours decision will open doors for young people. Press release, June 20, 2011.
Stewart, D 2011. ‘Fair work for teens.’ Newcastle Herald: 25, June. p.10.
Watson. Application to vary the General Retail Industry Award 2010 (Vic) s 158.
Wooden, M 2011.’The after-school job is the comeback kid.’ The Conversation: 21, June.