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Issue #1687      June 3, 2015


You would not expect the people who use Salvation Army centres for assistance to be well off. However you may be surprised to find out how little money people have left to survive on. The Salvation Army has surveyed 2,400 of their clients and found out that their average weekly income was $305. They spent $180 on accommodation with only $125 left to pay for utility bills, transport, clothing and food. The worst off were people on Newstart allowance. A childless couple on Newstart has to manage on $9.57 a day after housing costs. In another troubling trend the Salvation Army’s 2015 Economic and Social Impact Survey found that 56 percent of respondents reported that their financial situation was worse than last year; 37 percent of the respondents could not afford to see a doctor and the situation was much worse with dental treatment – 68 percent had to do without. Many parents skipped meals to provide a bit extra for their children. Two-thirds of parents were not able to afford children’s activities or internet connection. Putting food on the table was a struggle and one-third could not provide fresh fruit and vegetables for their children each day. An estimated 2.5 million Australians live below the poverty line, including 603,000 children.

Power industry unions are considering their legal and industrial options following the NSW Baird government’s failure to consult with the workforces of Ausgrid, Endeavour Energy, and TransGrid ahead of their privatisation. The Electrical Trade Union (ETU) and United Services Union (USU), which represent electricity network workers, have warned that without proper employment protection in place, private owners will slash jobs, apprentice numbers, close depots and offices, and contract out other services.

When advisors to big banks and insurance companies start talking about employers being “creative” it usually means screwing their workforce. Lynda Gratton, a London Business School professor and HR consultant who was in Sydney to address the World Business Forum said: “I think one needs to be more creative about how we think of age and salary structure. One difficulty is in any corporation, because people’s salary goes up every year, the older you are often the more you’re paid and that makes old people more expensive.” Ms Gratton’s suggestion is not to give employees pay rises as they get older and even cut their pay. National Seniors Australia chief executive Michael O’Neill pointed out that the comment was “completely out of touch” with the Australian industrial relations system. “I would be happy to run a campaign against any institution that chooses to reduce workers’ pay because of their age and I’m sure consumers will react,” he said. “We recognise the contribution older Australians make in the workplace. They should be remunerated fairly and it’s nonsense to say otherwise. Negotiating pay based on a birth certificate is clearly unacceptable,” he said. Employers who followed Ms Gratton advice might buy themselves legal troubles as pay cuts or salary freezers purely on the basis of age exposed employers to the risk of unlawful age discrimination.

Next article – Region Briefs

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