Saturday, 27 May 2006

outrage and indignation

Wow am I bummed.

Our government recently made some really scary and awful legislative changes to Australia's industrial relations system. In a nutshell they did a u-turn on Australia's long history of worker's rights and unionisation by eliminiating our award and safety net system.

What this means is that where once workers had a basic expectation and entitlement to a decent wage and working conditions like holidays, breaks, sick pay, maximum shift lengths, job security and so on, they now have to negotiate their conditions directly with their emplyer as individuals. You know, divide and steamroller.

The debate around these law changes have been for many people a bit abstract. Lots of people thought it wouldn't make much of a difference. Lots of people thought it would be better for employers and the same for employees. But lots and lots and lots of people were worried it would be worse for employees.

Now we're beginning to see the results. Some people have summarily lost their jobs, others have lost money out of their pay packets or conditions that once made their jobs manageable, like flexible hours to fit in with kids or some control over their shifts and overtime. It's pretty grim, especially for lower paid, less 'irreplaceable' workers.

The debate just got really personal for me not as a worker, but a consumer. Like lots of aussie crafters I spend a fair whack of time and dollars at Spotlight, our crafitng superstore. There's one really close to my home and it's my store of choice for fabric, basic yarns, and a good portion of my craft supplies. The store is great on prices, even if it's a bit chaotic and over utilised. Getting a pram down the aisles can be an impossibility and the wait at the check out can be frustrating.

But I am really horrified to learn that the guys who run the store have just completely done over their workers. I am really really disappointed and sad because I've seen how hard their workers work, how understaffed and overextended they are, and how helpful they have been to me. And now their bosses are telling them they are worth less than they used to be, because the government has removed impediments to their wage reduction they have siezed the opportunity and done just that!

So I'm going to be going out of my way to take my business elsewhere, and to encourage everyone I know to avoid them in favour of other businesses. It's a real challenge because they are for many of us the only option for lots of things, and they are really close to my house and I don't drive. But I want those guys to know I don't want to do business with them anymore.

**Edited later - thanks for all that good feeling solidarity! It's really encouraging to see that others are prepared to go the extra mile - literally - to do the right thing by their fellow workers and to support small local businesses. Good on you all!! Also thanks Fiona for leaving the link to the ACTU Spotlight campaign where you can leave a message for Spotlight's owners letting them know you are taking your dollars elsewhere and why. Please take the time to stop in here and give these guys a little insight into how their chase for profits at the expanse of their employees may land them in the red.


joyflea said...

Yes, I wholeheartedly agree with the boycotting this store. It is usually only though desperation of needing something simple like a zipper or some interfacing that I actually set foot in the store, but now, I will go that extra mile to find and buy these items elsewhere. I hope that one day soon, small haberdashery & fabric stores will return to our local shopping strips.

Kate said...

I totally agree. i am lucky enough to live somewhere with an old fashioned little sewing store, it is sad they have nearly disappeared. It is amazing to me that I live in a country where this is allowed to happen.

Fiona said...

I'm with you, Sooz - the way Spotlight's workers have been treated is rotten. Two cents an hour in exchange for all their entitlements is nothing short of outrageous. Have you seen the ACTU website tracking campaigns and effects of this legislation? You can write a letter to voice your disappointment to Spotlight's owners via it here:

Sweet Treat said...

I couldn't agree more... Spotlight is so convienient andhas everything, but I can't help but wonder with all thier discounting what they have done not only to workers but to the little crafty shops that couldn't keep up. I think this is a wake up call to me to support little stores more- including bakeries, stationery shops, boutiques. I think the independants have a chance at keeping the big guys honest.

emma said...

Oh. My. Goodness. I had no idea about all this, but I think I'm going to have to start looking elsewhere for all my basics. It is really tragic. My husband and I have made a decision to only buy and eat fair trade chocolate because of the terrible wages and working conditions cocoa farm employees can face (and we're hoping to phase out non-fair trade tea too). But to have a situation shaping up in our 1st world country that seems to be going backwards to that? It's unbelievable what depths people will sink to for what is essentially material greed.

Angela Savage said...

Good on you for this, Sooz. I think it's important to take a stand and I hope all the people who have left comments on your site also let their feelings be known to the Spotlight owners via the ACTU campaign site. The only thing that will move these people is an impact on their bottom line. And for those of us non-drivers with children now inconvenienced by the Spotlight boy/girlcott, perhaps we can contact each other with information on alternative suppliers of essential crafting items in our areas and/or do a whip-around before shopping so we can buy for each other :-)

bugheart said...

i would normally
comment on politics
even if it's not my country
but since the US is such
a wreck right now
looks better
than US politics
at this point.
but crafters
is always good
in my book.

Bianca said...

Thanks Sooz, I have sent Spotlight management an email. I've cut up my membership card and won't be shopping there till they pull their socks up!

Janet said...

I agree, Sooz & have finally got my head around the idea of not going to Spotlight just because it is convenient & cheap. I think we are beginning to see the real cost of "cheap". For a while I have felt uneasy about the cheapness of the imported material & wondered if I am supporting bad working conditions overseas. Now I know that if I shop at Spotlight, I will be supporting the erosion of decent conditions here. There are other shops.