The decision by Fare Work Australia (FWA) to lower the minimum working shift for school students from 3 hours to 1.5 hours has been met with mixed feelings by the students themselves, the retail industry, and the unions. The research paper is an endeavor to explore why employer associations in the retail industry have decided to pursue a reduction in the minimum shift for school students to 1.5 hours.
The research paper further explores whether the shorter minimum shift will create more jobs for young people, and why unions are opposed to it. The views of students on the new development have also been reviewed, along with the writer’s position on FWA’s decision.
Why have employer associations in the retail industry pursued a reduction in the minimum shift for school students to 1.5 hours?
Employer associations in the retail industry have been pursuing a reduction in the minimum shift for school students on grounds that this is a chance for the young people to pursue various career paths in future. Then new decision means that school students can now complete small shifts within the retail businesses once they have completed normal school hours (Fair Work Australia 2011).
In this regard, it portrays a level of common sense and flexibility in as far as the relations regime in the workplace is concerned (National Retail Association 2011). This is an important arrangement for the retail industry. This is because the retail sector is often characterized by peak periods whereby the demand for human resource is high. Sometimes, the peak demand can be quite intense but short (Wooden 2011). Traditionally, the retail sector has willingly offered school students a head start in the workforce whereby they get a chance to learn valuable skills that they cannot get at the classroom. In addition, students also have the chance to get some independent income. This is a role that the retail industry is only too willing to assume once more (Burke & Davey 2011).
At the moment, we have a number of small businesses within the retail industry who cannot accept shifts since the time between the end of school hours and the time when businesses close is quite limited. For instance, before the reduction of minimum the shift for school students to 1.5 hours, a student whose classes ended at 3pm would not be allowed to work for a shift ending at 5 pm.
Once the shorter shift provision is being implemented in July, it shall be a win-win situation for both retailers and students alike. In addition, it would also ensure that the jobs of thousands of students are saved, in addition to enabling the creation of others (Stewart 2011).
If the shorter minimum shift will create more jobs for young people, why are unions opposed to it?
Although the shorter shift is bound to create more jobs for students, nonetheless, unions are opposed to it on grounds that the retail industry may exploit them. Not only are the students likely to earn less (because they are working for less hours anyway), but even the insufficient earnings may very well be eclipsed by the travelling costs incurred. However, the introduction of the three hours minimum shift did not elicit resistance from the unions.
At the time, many young people had to be sacked. There are also those who opted to quit their jobs because they were not prepared for the three hour minimum shift. Another reason why unions are not happy with the new rule is because for the 1.5 hours that students work, they can only take home $ 11, and it is barely enough to even cover their transport costs. Therefore, it will not be easily for students to accept working for a 1.5 hours shift.
Unions are also skeptical of the retail industry employing teenagers cheaply in order to replace adults. Already, a majority of the adult workers are casual employees. With the daily increase in living pressures, a loss in say, 1.5 hours would mean that the workers sinks deeper into poverty and despair. Finally, the decision is seen by unions as an attempt to cut out the protection that workers have enjoyed for many decades (Lawrence 2011).
The Burke and Davey article presents the perspective of students at one workplace who are pleased with the change to minimum shift requirements. Do you think all school students would share their view?
The minimum 1.5 hours shift is a welcome respite for school students because it allows them to strike a balance between their school work and working. After putting in several hours a day at school, students are normally very exhausted and when they have to put in an extra 3 hours, this is bound to impact negatively on their concentration in class the next day. When a student has an assignment to hand in the next morning, most of them would opt to leave a little bit earlier so that they can attend to it.
The same case applies to when they have to sit for examinations. This way, they can prepare adequately for the assignment or the examination. With the new 1.5 hour shift rule, students are more flexible. Even when a student wishes to work for fewer hours, this is not possible because of the minimum three hour shift rule. However, the students have now been granted a lifeline in that they have the choice to work for a shorter period of time.
On the other hand, a lot more students depend on the allowances from working after school for their upkeep. Therefore, once the minimum shift has been reduced to 1.5 hours, they are likely to earn less. Also, the academic schedule of students differs, and there are those who would still comfortably handle a 3 hour shift comfortably. With the new rule however, they are not able to do so.
After weighing up all the evidence and arguments, do you agree with the FWA decision? Explain your position
I agree with the decision by FWA to reduce the minimum working shift for students to 1.5 hours. I think that the decision by FWA to reduce the working hours for student workers to a minimum of 1.5 hours is the right one because there are still students who have no desire of working for 3 straight hours after school (Wooden 2011). There is a lot more that these students can accomplish with their extra time, besides working. After all, education should be their first priority because most of these jobs are temporary and at best, pay dismally.
Burke, K., & Davey, M., 2011. Teenagers back in business with 90-minute shifts. Sydney Morning Herald.
Fair Work Australia., 2011. Fair Work Act 2009 s.158 – Application to vary or revoke a modern award. Fair Work Australia.
Lawrence J., 2011. Shorter shifts leave workers out of pocket. Newcastle Herald.
National Retail Association., 2011. Minimum Hours decision will open doors for young people. National Retail Association.
Stewart, D., 2011. Fair work for teens. Newcastle Herald.
Wooden, M., 2011. The after-school job is the comeback kid. The Conversation.