The oval shaped beads are really giving Charlie the shits. The clasp which holds the chain connecting the string is easy enough to remove on the round beads but for some reason the oval shaped beads resist the snip and unwind method and for the hundredth time, rather than coming away clean, the force of the twist has caused the bead to break.
Its also driven tiny slivers of metal into his thumb and forefinger, and at the end of the day he knows his fingers will be sore.
Charlie’s doing a Work for the Dole program supposedly preparing him to be ‘job ready’ in Warehousing and Logistics.
The reality is that he removes the connecting chain between stings of junk jewellery.
In other parts of the site about twenty other WfD ‘volunteers’ repackage items for charity work. Some sort clothing, while others work on repackaging goods for distribution to charity organizations.
Frustration and anger levels simmer just below the surface. No-one’s happy. “It’s just meaningless tasks,” he says.
“When we get here, we’re given different tasks each day. Some of us sort clothing and repackage, while others dismantle junk jewellery.
Everybody hates doing the jewellery.
“There aren’t enough pliers to go around and some of them won’t do the job without breaking or damaging the beads.
Charlie’s bead is thrown in a bin with the other broken beads, while the unbroken beads are collected and sorted into colour, size and shape by other WfD volunteers. The connecting chain is discarded.
At the end of the work period, the sorted beads are collected and tipped into a container, where the next day they will again be sorted into colour, size and shape.
“The game they play with the beads is what really gives everyone here the shits. There’s no point. It’s the same as digging holes and then filling them in. No one here is getting anything like training for work in a warehouse.
“There’s no safety equipment either. We’re all given a one-size-fits-all fluro vest and that’s it! We don’t get safety gloves to protect our hands from the metal on the junk jewellery either.
“If you forget your fluro vest, they make you go home and get it and then come back. They tell you that you have to make up for the time lost so you have to work extra hours.
He looks around at his fellow WfD’s and says that the kind of work people are doing here is the same kind of work that they give you in prison or a community service order. “It’s like Game of Thrones, the same as being a serf,” he shrugs.
There are several large notices posted around the site warning that the use of mobile phones is strictly forbidden and any infringement carries “penalties including reporting any breach of the rules to your Employment Service Provider.”
Charlie usually works on dismantling jewellery but has been assigned to repackaging on three separate occasions.
On the first occasion he repackaged a discount priced confectionary, the type found on sale at local markets or school fetes. The second item repacked was a brand of cosmetic products found in major retail chains.
“They got everybody together on these occasions. Nobody had to dismantle jewellery or resort beads, but they stepped up the pace of repackaging and they watched us like hawks,” he says.
On each occasion, Charlie and his fellow WfD’s were again warned that the use of mobile phones in the repackaging area was strictly forbidden and infringement of the rules carried ‘heavy penalties’.
Heavy penalties most certainly would apply, but not to Charlie. There are strict rules against the use of WfD labour to replace employees, and the AUWU has stated that it will pursue the allegations with the Department of Employment and the Commonwealth Ombudsman.
Charlie’s story is just one of many, and indicative of a system failing to deal with the victims of neo-liberal economic policies. Rather than address the problem of rising unemployment, the LNP are quietly continuing to push forward with their plans to privatize all welfare.
Multi-nationals such as Max Solutions and Mission Providence have had their eye on privatized welfare including medical insurance and pensions in Australia for over a decade, and on November 9 at the Long Term Unemployed Conference held in Melbourne, they’ll get their chance to advance their cause one step further.
Significantly, the price of attendance is $550 (concession rate) which puts the cost well out of reach for anyone on the dole.
Representatives from the government and private sector can rest safe in the knowledge that the fate of the great unwashed will be picked over without the distasteful requirement of having them in their presence.
The findings and outcomes of the conference are easy to predict;
‘The system is in need of reform administered by the private sector.’
As a spokesperson told Fairfax media in 2002; “Long-term, [Maximus’s future] is very much driven by the government direction in outsourcing. Ultimately, if Centrelink is privatised, Maximus would be very well-suited to help.”
Meanwhile, every week hundreds of complaints, comments and stories flood the inbox at the AUWU’s website.
ESP ‘clients’ have their benefits cancelled through no fault of their own, the new Kapo’s demand that the client always be on time for an appointment – notification of which may or may not have been issued – or be breached for being 5 minutes late and then kept waiting 40 minutes while their case officer lets them cool their heels to show them who’s boss…
The bullying and demonisation goes on. The MSM does its bit through a Current Affair; “Australia’s Welfare suburbs – are they unlucky or just lazy?” The usual idiotic prejudices are wheeled out and the mayor of Liverpool tells the audience that; “I left school at Year 10 and I’ve got a Certificate IV in Small Business! Ya gotta stay positive”, he beams.
Ironically, he also puts his finger on the heart of the problem admitting that while there’s been a steady increase in people are moving to Liverpool, “The big problem is that the work’s just not here.”
But . . . exactly!
Charlie must Serf for his hamburger Momma!