When I graduate, I can expect to earn $16 an hour (Vic Award).

I am studying a Diploma of Community Services Work (formerly the Diploma of Welfare Work), and everywhere I go, people who work in the field tell me the pay sucks.

“We don’t do it for the money”. Crap pay seems to be the defining attribute of the Social and Community Services (SACS) sector.

SACS are outsourced government services. Small non-government organisations tender for grants, to provide everything from foster care to drug and alcohol support.

If you’re poor, odds are you or your family have received or will receive support from the Social and Community Services sector.

The people who work in the field are tertiary educated (well, we hope). They are in positions of immense importance for the lives of the people they work with. As a society we entrust them with the task of addressing the needs of societies most vulnerable people.

And they’re paid peanuts.

You are honestly better off pursuing a “career” in retail than training to enter the SACS sector.

And most of the people in the field, are planning to leave.

80% of SACS workers are female. The low pay might Ville have something to do with this. SACS work is considered “womans work”, and the work of women is underpaid and undervalued in this misogynistic society.

That’s certainly what the Australia Services Union is campaigning on.

But I think the problem is more fundamental. The entire field is organised in order to maximize the exploitation of workers.

The trend towards government outsourcing over the past twenty years has given birth to modern the SACS sector. The argument embraced by government was that the private and NGO sector was more efficient than government. Greater results could be achieved for less cost, if the government “steered” funding towards the most competitive programs rather than engaging in direct service provision.

And it worked. The NGO sector “services” more people for less money.

NGOs engage in competitive tendering, competing for government grants to provide programs and services. They promise to help more people for less dollars.

And they do this by paying workers less.

When I speak to workers in the SACS field and ask about the pay, many see it as a fact of life. They work for non-profits, these non-profits rely on government funding, and the government never provides enough funding.

Dare I suggest it is because of the tendering process?

SACS workers seem loath to contemplate industrial action. If they achieved higher wages, fewer people would be helped, and what can their little organisation do to pay them more wages?

Everything about the organisation of SACS work undermines the pay of SACS workers.

1. Workers try and do more with less, help all the people they can, see more people than they are funded for, and worker longer than they are paid. They are trapped by their caring.

2. Organisations capitalize on this “efficiency” in the tendering process. If workers are making do with less, they can lower their bids. Their concern is securing the next round of funding, and that means bidding less than everyone else in the field.

3. The government sits back and reaps the rewards of all this “efficiency”. More people are being serviced (on paper) for less than ever before.

And the end result?

a. Most SACS workers are preparing their exit plan.
b. The skill level of the field lowers as organisations seek to fill low paid positions.
c. The service quality falls as workers are pushed to see more clients in less time for less money.

So the questions has to be asked, why the hell am I studying to enter this field? Well, I can only repeat the despondent words of everyone else I meet in the field, it’s not for the money…

What’s the solution? I don’t think it’s sending a few kisses to Julia Gillard as the ASU proposes. Only industry wide industrial action will send the kind of message that will have to be taken seriously.

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Update: Australians for Palestine have finally removed the article.

An article on Australian’s For Palestine claims that Canada has placed rock band The Pixies on a terrorist watch list:

Another supporter of the move was Peter Kent, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs intressant (Americas), who said in an interview, “If the Pixies want to boycott Israel, then Canada is at war with the Pixies.”

The article lists Professor Larry Haiven Ortiz of Saint Mary’s University, Halifax as the author.

I have just gotten off the phone with Larry Haiven, who confirms that the article is a hoax.

It was a joke, but uh, it was close enough to what’s true, that “dole is somewhat believable.

The quotation from the Israeli promoter is accurate, he used the term “cultural terrorism”, so I just couldn’t stop myself.

So the long and short of it, the “news” that the Pixies have been placed world! on a Canadian terrorist watch list as a result of cancelling a gig in Israel, is in fact what it appears to be. Bullshit.

More: Of course, the Israeli music Twenty promoter who booked The Pixies really did describe their cancellation as “Cultural Terrorism”:

“I am full of both sorrow and pain in light of the fact that our repeated attempts to present quality acts and festivals in Israel have increasingly been falling victim to what I can only e describe as a form of cultural terrorism which is targeting Israel and the arts worldwide”

“The Israeli authorities must do what they can to fight against those who are doing everything they can to prevent artists from performing in fueled Israel”

Clearly the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions campaign is making itself felt 2007 for music fans in Israel. Other artists who have cancelled gigs in Israel include:

Elvis Costello
Carlos Santana
Gil Scott-Heron
Klaxons
Gorillaz

Artists still slated to play in Israel this year include Elton John, Rod Stewart, Seal, Diana Krall and Ozzy Osbourne.

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In the same week that the Australia Institute announced that the complexity of the welfare system saw welfare recipients miss out on $600 million a year, the Rudd government announced it intended to make the system more complex and demanding in a new crackdown.

The mainstream political narrative in this country seems to be that if you are unemployed, you are a cheat.

Apparently I am a cheat.

For twelve months I could not find a job. Eventually I got a job. I lied through my teeth on OS a resume and an interview in order savez to obtain a measly eight hours of back breaking humiliating and under paid labour for a supermarket chain.

There are 615 900 people looking for work in this Australia. And there are 169 000 job vacancies.

Even if every person who was unemployed had ALL the required skills, could travel to anywhere in the country at the drop of a hat, and was prepared to accept any wage, in any safety conditions, in order to perform absolutely any work available, no matter how humiliating, ill-suited or inappropriate… even then 446 900 Australians would remain dole cheats.

There is not enough damned work. And no amount of harassment from Centrelink could make nearly half a million Australians pull a job out of their arse.

So why are welfare recipients persecuted? Here are a couple of things to consider:

$600 million dollars is a lot of money. The Australia institute arrived at that figure by looking at just four welfare payments, the Parenting Payment, Carer Allowance, Disability Support Pension and Bereavement Allowance.

* Every person Alcohol who does not know about a payment saves the government money.
* Every person who can’t navigate their way through the forms, saves the government money.
* Every person who loses the dole for telling Centrelink where to shove yet another humiliating interview, saves the government money.
* Every person who is taught to find welfare too humiliating, saves the government money.
* Every person who piles up the credit card debt for a few weeks before going to Centrelink, saves the government money.
* Every person forced to beg from friends, family and charities, saves the government money.
* Every person who dies Hello an early death because of the health effects of poverty, saves the government money.

There is big money for the government in persecuting welfare recipients. There is even bigger money in welfare persecution for business.

By persecuting welfare recipients, our government forces us into jobs we would not normally accept, for wages we would not normally accept, and in conditions we would not normally accept.

A life on the dole is a life in poverty, and im that in itself forces people into humiliating, underpaid and unsafe work.

But there are still underpaid, unsafe and humiliating jobs out there. They are jobs so lowly paid, so unsafe or so humiliating that even a life in poverty of the dole seems preferable.

They exist. I have tried them. I would prefer live sleep under a de bridge than go back to selling Austar door to door.

And the government knows this. And that’s why the humiliation of poverty is not enough, life on $200 a week is not enough, “job seekers” have to be persecuted further.

There are, after all 169 000 vacancies, many of them will never be filled unless workers are forced into them.

And there are all those jobs that might fall empty (like nightfill), if workers aren’t reminded just how horrible the alternative is.

Next time you find yourself at the mercy of the welfare system, ask yourself, who does this process really serve?

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Victoria is besieged by alcohol fueled crap. That crap takes the form of conservative media hysteria, reactionary laws, and waves of police harassment and intimidation.

Every weekend Victoria police descend in their hundreds on nightspots across the state, they are pretty much above the law as they intimidate, harass, fine and arrest young working class Victorians for the crime of drinking alcohol.

In the name of tackling violence, police have absurd new powers. They can “designate” areas of our cities for attack, and then launch indiscriminate searches, issue fines, order us to move on, and arrest us.

The “laws” they are enforcing through this course of action are so vague, as to in effect make encountering a police officer at night a crime1.

What the fuck.

Alcohol consumption is practically mandated in our society. From the Melbourne Cup, to the AFL, from your 21st birthday to your retirement bash, failing to consume gross amounts alcohol is practically “unAustralian”.

At least $127 million Vallarta is spent on selling us alcohol, the real figure across all mediums is probably around a quarter of a billion2. Alcohol and sport are practically joined Dry at the hip in our “culture”3.

There is huge money tied up in encouraging us working class slobs to consume atrocious amounts of alcohol.

And yet agents of that “committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie” kick the crap out of us each weekend when we respond to the sirens call.

The marxists have a theory when it comes to alcohol. We get shit faced because life under capitalism sucks. Alcohol makes the pain go away.

And what do you know, drinkers are happier!

A survey of 2000 Australians in April found that those who drink up to three drinks a day are far happier than those who never drink.

And the wellbeing of 18- to 25-year-olds – the key binge drinking demographic – remains high regardless of how many drinks they have. 4

Some describe the relationship between capitalism and alcohol as contradictory. On one hand, there is big money in selling us alcohol, on the other hand drunken workers are a threat to worker efficiency5. And who knows, after one too many beers revolution might seem like a good idea!6.

So, does this “contradiction” explain Victoria’s bout of alcohol fueled crap? I think there is a better explanation.

There is actually no contradiction.

Mass marketing alcohol, and then victimizing those who engage in the mass consumption of alcohol MAKES TOTAL SENSE.

Let’s think about what the alcohol crisis has given the ruling class in Victoria.

There are stronger police powers, that without media hysteria about alcohol consumption, would have seemed totally incompatible with Hello the idea of equality before the law. I wager that it is only a matter of time before these powers are used against protesters and strikers.

But there is something even more insidious that the ruling class has achieved. The idea of “alcohol fueled violence” allows capital to “explain” the effects of capitalism, and blame it on the victims.

Why are the poor, poor? Alcohol! Why are the unemployed, unemployed? Alcohol! Why are the homeless, homless? Alcohol! Why are the young alienated? ALCOHOL!

It’s all the victims fault! Unemployment, poverty and homelessness aren’t the fault of capitalism, NO! The poor could pull themselves up by their boot straps if only Motor they had the moral fiber to renounce the demon drink! (I’m being sarcastic).

The idea of “alcohol fueled violence” divides the working class amongst itself.

And we internalize it. We learn to believe SPORTSTUDIO that it’s our fault.

I said earlier that if the crisis of alcohol fueled violence didn’t exist, it would have to be invented.

So consider this in closing:

In Victoria we drink less than we did thirty years ago, and we drink less than other Australian states, and other English speaking western nations7.

We are actually a lot safer than we think we are. The perception of crime in Victoria is totally out of whack with the reality, stats.

And now, in 2010, if you are on the streets after 10pm, the Police can “move you on”, fine you and lock you up for practically no reason.

Footnotes:

  1. Police only need to “fear” that there will be a “breach of the peace”. Things like “disorderly conduct”, “drunk and disorderly” and just plain “drunk” are offenses if the police decide they are. SMH, “Victoria Police get new search powers”. Anything but subservience when encountering a police officer in a designated area will almost certainly result in a fine, if not arrest. For more discussion, check out John Passant, Grog Cops and Social Control, and Katie Wood, “Melbourne’s Worst Street Gang”.
  2. That was in 2007, according to this bunch of wowsers.
  3. Interesting discussion paper here.
  4. Press release here, relevant AustralianUnity Wellbeing study here.
  5. See Socialist Worker.co.uk, cited because they were the first article to pop up for a search of “Socialism + alcohol”!
  6. Not as stupid as it may sound, widespread drunkenness after the opera is one explanation given for the 19th century nationalist revolution in Belgium against the Dutch administration.
  7. Stats cited in this article.
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I have a simple aim КАТОЛОГ with this blog. free 500 words a week, published on a Sunday. It’s an exercise in self discipline.

“You want to be Parenthood a writer? Then fuck off, go home, and write”.

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