LAST LOOK

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Rear View - JANE FRASER

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

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