BEING A PUBLIC SERVANT IS GETTING HARDER AND HARDER
A recent report on the workload of teachers outlined some staggering facts about the hours worked. And despite the absence of similar reports into other public sector agencies, I can tell you with considerable certainty that these extreme hours of work are quite common.
The report found that the average teacher was working 55 hours per week.
Late in the 16th century, some 430 years ago, the King of Spain declared the 8 hour working day. More recently, early in the 19th century, a little over 200 years ago, the catchcry was developed for an 8 hour working day for all workers that called for “8 hours work, 8 hours play, 8 hours sleep and a penny a day”.
In the 1840’s, Australia and New Zealand, were early adopters of the 8 hour working day in some industries. But most significantly, the stonemasons of Sydney went out on various strikes to demand the 8 hour day in late 1855 and early 1856. They really gained momentum when they stopped work on the Tooth’s brewery and soon after were awarded their 8 hour day.
Fast forward 170 years and we have teachers working, on average, 11 hour days. And some of them are doing this 6 or 7 days a week.
A more modern version of the 8 hour day includes an unpaid lunch break of 30mins- 1hour. So a worker would, on average be working 35-37.5 hours per week.
Talk to a police officer and you will find out how often they go in to work on their days off, or stay back well past knock-off time, to catch up on the paperwork and other matters that they just couldn’t get done during their shift. The same goes for nurses and doctors and paramedics that ride our ambulance. And the same goes for our public servants working in child protection, our environmental officers, our TAFE teachers, our aged care workers, our disability workers, etc etc etc.
These long hours are completely unsustainable. “Burn-out” of our public sector workers is all too common place and no cares anywhere near enough. And what’s worse is that these long hours worked are preventing the bosses (Governments) from employing the right number of people and creating more jobs. But that’s not limited to the public sector, it’s also widespread in the private sector too.
Imagine if we paid the workers for the hours worked, as opposed to the salary negotiated. Or, imagine if we went to Treasury and asked them to actually adjust the pay of our public sector workers to reflect the number of hours worked, and not to pay for them for the assumed 35-40 hour working week. As a starting point, based on some pretty simple maths, you would have to increase teachers’ salaries by about 40%.
I want to be very clear so that there is no misunderstanding – I am NOT suggesting we increase public sector wages by 40%. I am simply making the point that in dollar terms, the state and we as a people are benefitting by about 40% worth of donated time by our public servants. In doing so, we are failing our wider goals of a fair days work for a fair days pay. We really cannot continue to ignore the facts.
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