So, now I've found out that the bail justice who let free the violent young man who later mowed down and killed people in Victoria with a stolen car was a volunteer bail justice filling in after hours for the regular paid ones. Can you believe that? A job as crucial to public safety and justice as that, being left at times for volunteers to fill! I have no wish to make any sweeping statement vilifying or questioning the capability of volunteers, but any role of importance in our community should be done by a paid and carefully selected and fully qualified and experienced worker or professional practitioner. Apparently these voluntary bail justices can be very young or unqualified. This is madness and it must stop! This news is astounding enough, but I also find myself agreeing without qualms with today's editorial from The Australian newspaper! This does not happen often.
I've been writing and ranting about the exploitation and stupidity of workfare and excessive use of volunteers in this blog for ages, but there has been no better time than today to demand a stop to this epidemic of unfair, dangerous and recession-mongering over-reliance on unpaid labour and services in Australian society. Businesses large and small exploit the young and inexperienced and the unemployed in unpaid internships and prolonged unpaid training or probationary periods. Training given under such arrangements can be redundant, demeaning or non-existent. All levels of government in Australia: local, state and federal, use the services of volunteers or advertise unpaid internships or cadetships. While these positions can be sought after, competed for and subject to written applications, interviews and clearances just the same as hiring for a paid job, the fact that people are willing to fill these roles in government departments, museums, events, legal roles, welfare roles etc, for zip pay does not excuse the fact that it is not legal to fill roles that are in every way like a job while offering no pay. Sure enough, such roles might offer valuable work experience or "a foot in the door", but that still does not make it acceptable or legal to offer the kind of role that would have once been a paid job as an internship or volunteer role today. There was a day when young people could expect a choice of job opportunities that they could walk into and start earning from, while they were also trained and mentored on the job.
The fact that today applicants outnumber paid jobs does not justify the existence of this slave economy. The volunteer economy is a false economy, because when people work for nothing, they cannot participate in the economy as consumers and thus the money does not go around, and they are also kept reliant on welfare income, which is paid for by taxes. There are other obvious reasons why the slave economy is a stupid idea. It is demeaning and demoralising to the unpaid workers who have no recognised responsibility or standing in workplaces. It is also stupid to expect this unpaid and unrecognised "ghost labour" to perform to the occupational standards, abilities, reliabilities, initiative, levels of responsibility and accountability of hired and paid workers. Can they be held legally responsible for mishaps on their watch? Who knows?
If every mug in Australia who works for nothing solely to stop their dole being cut off, to create work experiences to write into a resume, to train for a job that they have never been offered or to have a life and identity beyond parenting or retirement or a shit marriage all decided today to ask to be paid for their work, what would happen? Some people might gain secure, dignified, safe, paid jobs, rather than no people gaining secure, dignified, safe, paid jobs. That would be something at least.