I’ M speaking today on behalf of part-time workers and I do so from long past experience. When I lived in Johannesburg and my daughters were very young, I worked for a daily newspaper, mornings only, so I could pick up the children from nursery school at lunchtime. I think it worked well for me and the company. I have noticed that the young women who work here two or three days a week rush around like maniacs on the days they are here.
If you work full time — and this, I know, is a generalisation — you tend to relax a bit more; there are the newspapers to read, coffee to be taken and perhaps a muffin, some office socialising — OK, gossip — and then some work. If I remember correctly, casual staff were paid by the hour, so we felt we had to do our darg.
Not all employers approve of part-time workers; they tend to forget all about young women when they take maternity leave and then get a nasty little jolt when they pitch up at the office a year or so later and expect to get their old job back for a few days a week.
The last thing they’d be asking for is more money.
You can see the company’s point of view, but you can also understand why young people need to get back into the workforce: once you’ve been out of it for too long, the chances of getting a good job again are remote.
A friend complained recently that her cleaner had demanded a rise. She said she didn’t think it fair as the cleaner wasn’t working any harder; in fact, she thought she was being rather lax and cutting corners in the dust department. She was on the horns of the proverbial dilemma as she trusted the char not to abscond with the silver; but was that any more honest than cheating as far as hard yakka was concerned?
Another friend, when her daughters were teenagers, paid them a lump sum to wait on table at lunch parties and clean up when the meal was over. It was obvious that it was in their best interests to get the whole thing done as quickly as possible. So, like little dervishes they leapt from kitchen to dining room, grabbing plates from under our noses, sometimes even throwing dishes to each other from one side of the table to the other. I always found it terribly funny; it added zest to the occasion, although we sometimes got home very early in the afternoon.
But it all came to a head when one of the guests, a national living treasure and ancient artist, had her dessert removed when she was only halfway through eating it. Not one accustomed to being trifled with and being by nature swift and acerbic, she leaned across the table and rapped the young woman on the knuckles with her spoon.
My friend moved on to paying her girls an hourly rate, so we enjoyed many very late Sunday afternoons. It worked well.
fraserj@ theaustralian. com. au