Minimum Hour Laws

An article in The Australian reports on the ridiculous consequences of the Fair Work Act requirements for minimum hours of work. Here are some of the victims of this outrageous policy:

But Matthew and five other youths, all aged between 16 and 18, have been sacked from the Terang and District Co-operative, 210km southwest of Melbourne, because the Rudd government’s Fair Work Act won’t let them work less than three hours a day.

Both the youths and their employer had wanted to continue their longstanding arrangement and are furious the new law does not allow for the flexibility needed to keep them employed. Co-operative general manager Mr Duynhoven said those of his employees still at school could only get to work by 4pm, after school finished, and the store closed at 5.30pm, so there was only 1.5 hours of work available.

Julia Gillard has defended the system:

A spokesman for Workplace Relations Minister Julia Gillard said the new system was fairer.

“The government does not think it’s unreasonable to have a set of minimum standards for employees, including the minimum number of hours they can work across Australia, as has been brought in under the simplified modern system.”


It’s always about the fairness. How could anybody think this is a fairer system? For that matter, how could anyone think such a system is simpler? News.com.au has some further comments in defense of this assault on workers from Kevin Rudd:

Asked why the youths couldn’t be allowed to work for 1.5 hours, Mr Rudd continued to defend the system.

“One of our concerns is you can have an employer who says, ‘Come in for half an hour a day here and a half an hour a day there’ … very unsuitable for young workers often,” he told Fairfax Radio today.

Very unsuitable for young workers? It’s extremely suitable for young workers – especially those studying – but that’s not the point. This policy kills jobs, hurts business, and deprives youth of a very good way of gaining work experience.

“We’ve got to be very careful about industrial relations systems which enables people, incrementally, to be exploited,” he said.

In what possible way could offering someone a couple hours work be exploitative?

Fair Work Australia would speak to the employer concerned today, Mr Rudd said.

I’m sure he can’t wait.

UPDATE: Reading through the comments of the news.com.au article can be quite depressing 😦

11 thoughts on “Minimum Hour Laws

  1. Depressing?

    The people who approve of this have no concern for the kids who lost their jobs or the financial viability of the firm. They’re not an overwhelming majority.

    The tale of the volunteer work agencies is depressing.

    * Clarissa Day of Adelaide Posted at 12:10 PM February 05, 2010

    I run a not for profit, community based child care centre and have worked in this sector for over two decades. I have never worked under such onerous industrial conditions. The additional costs now incurred by our organisation places us in a precarious position and at this stage we do not know whether we can be financial viable in the new financial year meaning potentially 21 staff will loose their jobs. A staff member has contacted the union wanting her current arrangements to remain in place as she had negotiated them to meet her personal needs. The organisation incurs additional costs to keep in them in place and we just cannot afford them. The union stated that unless they are paid for by the organisation she cannot work them. What happened to the flexibility espoused in the National Employment Standards. The New Modern Awards give nothing to employers and is having a negative impact on employees. The only ones that benefit is the unions – feathering their own nest.

    Comment 12 of 55*

  2. Yeah SRL, it’s depressing reading the comments because you see the stories of the victims like this, or comments from those who support it, like this one:

    past casual working of brisbane Posted at 12:08 PM February 05, 2010

    Rudd’s right this time. Just cause the shops too cheap to hire for the full 3 hrs then they shouldn’t hire just cause they want to save on labor. Get a new min and you get a lot of ppl unhappy because employer will surely cut hours and it gives them more power to do so. Not very good if you spend 30 min going to work to be told to go home after another 30 just cause a few kids couldnt get a job they wanted.

    Comment 10 of 55

    It’s the evil corporations taking advantage by not giving enough work! Of course, the reality is, that stuff like this hurts young people and small businesses a lot more. The big stores (they’d be the corporations that everybody hates) will be pretty much unaffected by this law – except in that it helps kill off their competition.

    It may not be an “overwhelming majority” who approve this nonsense, but it’s a disturbingly large number. Here is a greater sample of stupid comments:

    david Posted at 12:18 PM February 05, 2010

    The minimum hours are there to protect the kids. Its almost not worth someone’s whilst to go in just for 1.5 hours and if the government changed this. There would be alot of companies that would abuse this. A coffee shop might only hire staff from 7-8.30pm. Peak time. For the $18 or so for 1.5 hours minus travel expensives etc its not worth it for the employee. These laws protect employees

    Comment 16 of 55
    #################
    Bill of Perth Posted at 12:18 PM February 05, 2010

    The thing is the teens can work for 1 & 1/5 hours they just can get paid for less than 3 hours. If the employer doesn’t want to pay the for 3 hours then it is the employer not the IR laws that is at fault. This is a good provision as it help protect those (who I used to be one) get called into work (on you day off)to help fix a problem and it only takes an hour to do you get paid for 3 hours for the total inconvenience. to make my point again it is the employer not the IR laws that has resulted in these teens being sacked.

    Comment 17 of 55
    #################
    Ben H of Dandenong Ranges Posted at 12:18 PM February 05, 2010

    Employment is exploitation in itself.

    Comment 18 of 55

  3. On the bigger scale this is a law that will possibly reduce the amount of part-time staff. Since the minimum is more and likely will discourage groups from work that can not commit 40 hrs per week.
    Overwhelming rise of the part-time work compared to full time work is especially dangerous, as it reduces the opportunities for employable adults to have a satisfying occupation and working conditions.

    Also this put the pressure on the management to schedule and plan things more thoroughly, which will likely result in more meaningful work and further efficiencies at work.

    This practice is very common in Canada.

  4. “Also this put the pressure on the management to schedule and plan things more thoroughly, which will likely result in more meaningful work and further efficiencies at work.”

    By what? Not allowing them flexibility in planning? Are you serious?

    I note that Canada’s unemployment rate is 8.3%.

  5. @safinr, are you contending that this policy reduces part-time work in favour of full-time work? I don’t see why you think this is fairer… one person gets more work (full-time), whilst the other becomes unemployed?

    Of course, even that assumes it’s a zero-sum game – but the reality is, some workplaces just don’t need/can’t afford longer periods (and some workers really only want to work a couple hours – such as kids after school). These jobs will simply disappear altogether; the business will suffer; and the big corporations will be largely unaffected.

    The “forcing management to put more thought in” is laughable. You could say that of any policy which hinders people from being productive. As they think of workarounds, “Ah well – at least it makes them put a bit more thought into it!”

    Semi Regular Libertarian wrote:

    I note that Canada’s unemployment rate is 8.3%.

    By safinr’s argument this isn’t a bad thing, SRL… there’s less “underemployed” as a result – the higher unemployment is just the price others have to pay.

  6. I disagree that the “forcing management to put more thought in” is laughable.
    We are talking about small business that employ casual workers/students.
    These small business usually have the tendency to be less formal, which ensues the possibility that they do not forecast demand for their product. This forecasting may be achieved through historical data or predictions. If the shop owner is not required to pay at least 3 hours minimum to the workers that show up, then they are more likely to over schedule employees for any reason and when the demand does not match the supply, then they would reduce the supply of workers. Alternatively they would ensure that the demand for service would be there (projections of demand, increased marketing). I think this policy overall favors employees, even though it may increase the teen unemployment temporarily. That is the kind of thought i am talking about, not a mere workaround.

  7. “By safinr’s argument this isn’t a bad thing, SRL… there’s less “underemployed” as a result – the higher unemployment is just the price others have to pay.”

    Simple decision tool: employers prefer any experience to none. This therefore is a very poor, deleterious decision to human welfare.

  8. It’s a good thing that socialists don’t read these pages! I just thought to myself- how long before they unionise paperboy rounds?

  9. This would have been (maybe still is) a perfect letter to the editor opportunity guys. Or a quick email of support to the author.

    There’s a lot of crap in the Australian like all the Australian newspapers. But I think it’s valuable to support them when they do a good story like this. Let them know this type of article is popular and then there is more chance it will continue.

  10. Just wondering if the students had an ABN and invoiced the store, could they get around this law?
    If so, could we pitch in a few bucks for these students to get an ABN, to show the folly of this law…

  11. The local council should have a section where small business can apply to have workers hours examined in a case like this, unfortunatly if you change the rules across the board, big busines and other business would take advantage of the min hourly time’s that are set in place to save the workers from being exploited.

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