The Good Old Days

This is going to date me pretty severely but it’s something I’ve been mulling over for some time. My basic question is… “Where did it all begin to go wrong?”

What is ‘it’ you ask? Let me explain.

When Adam and I were still young lads, what constituted a ‘workday’ and ‘conditions of employment’ were, for the mass of the working classes, virtually set in stone. For lots of us the ‘norm’ was a 40 hour week. The work day began at 8:30 and finished at 5:30 with an unpaid hour for lunch, and two paid 15 minute ‘tea breaks’ mid morning and afternoon. The week ended Friday and Saturday and Sunday were ‘days of rest’.

This was so entrenched that for years after WWII, in the UK, there was even a radio programme called “Workers Playtime” which was a full variety show that visited factories etc and ran for the lunch hour… great stuff… I loved it!! 😀

Admittedly there was some variation, for example the building industry started and finished earlier but the norm was the 40 hours.

Also of course, for those who worked in shops and might be expected to work on the Saturday morning [i](and possibly afternoon)[/i] there was ‘half day closing’ usually on Wednesday afternoon when *all* the shops in town closed. Again this might vary inasmuch as one town or area might close Thursday afternoons to try to win some trade from one that closed on Wednesdays.

All public holidays (in the UK they were Bank Holidays) saw all businesses closed and this included Christmas and Good Friday… tho not New Years Day… or the Queen’s Birthday oddly enough! 😀

If for some reason you *had* to work on one of the ‘closed days’ you were paid time and a half, double or even treble time to compensate you for losing your time at the company’s request… and we accepted it with thanks. Seemed fair all round really

Night and shift workers were a special case of course, but even they seemed happy with their lot in general.

Things were pretty confused in some places where we found you could buy a cabbage on a Sunday but not a bible… but otherwise things worked pretty well… or seemed to. Admittedly in Wales until the mid 1960’s many a country pub wasn’t allowed to open Sundays and many a border county found a steady stream of traffic across its boundaries to a ‘wet’ country where pubs opened as normal… but we managed 🙂

Not sure how things were here in Australia of course, but I assume there was some similarity at least on the basics.

Now what do we have?? Well almost every business under the sun wants to work all day every day of the week, month and year regardless of family commitment or economic necessity. What’s more, it seems you are being paid minimum wages regardless *when* you work.

So for those who regularly work very early shifts, late shifts, weekends, holidays and the like there is no longer any need for them to be paid ‘penalty rates’ for those unsocial hours.

In Australia, the AWA’s are just the end of the line of the erosion of workers rights and the loss of hard won freedoms.

Basically the question is… what the hell happened? Such a fundamental change in the approach to pay and conditions *can’t* must have had a catalyst somewhere that made he changes not only necessary, but acceptable to those most affected, i.e. ‘the workers’. Just where and when did it all go wrong?

One thought on “The Good Old Days

  1. I know what you mean, in my current job we only have 1/2hr for lunch with the 15mins break morning and afternoon. When I started we worked one Saturday in four and had a day off in the week to compensate, which reduced to one in three without the day off. We worked easter Friday with no extra pay then we’re supposed to be grateful to have Easter Monday off and even more grateful to have to have the two bank holidays off in May. As stated these are all bank holidays, while I may not work for the banks I do work in the financial sector which makesit all the more strange. This does seem like a few changes over what you may think is years, however I only started at the end of January. Hence to say I think I’ll be moving on soon.

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