Do employees work only for their own benefit?

The latest ABS data on ‘working time arrangements’ received a tendentious report yesterday in the SMH:

ALMOST a third of Australian employees work unsocial hours – between 7pm and 7am – and even more complain they have no say about when they start or finish. ….Thirty per cent said their shifts regularly overlapped the hours between 7pm and 7am as part of their main job. Three in five said they had no say about when they started or finished.

As for weekends, 16 per cent said they were required to work on Saturdays, and 8.5 per cent on Sundays. One in four were not always allowed to choose when to take their holidays. (emphasis added)

Note the SMH interpretations I bolded. Working after 7pm isn’t necessarily ‘unsocial’ – a lot of people like their colleagues. The ABS report doesn’t anywhere suggest that people were complaining about having no say about when they start or finish; that simply goes with many jobs where predictable opening or operational times are necessary. The ABS doesn’t say that 16% of people are ‘required’ to work Saturdays; it just says that 16% do work Saturdays. As I noted earlier in the month, weekends and evenings are the only time some people with other commitments can work. And workers in particular industries can’t take holidays whenever they choose for good reasons, eg school teachers can’t take holidays during term.

What’s missing in this reporting is the sense that an employment arrangement is one of mutual advantage between employer and employee to provide goods and services from which other people benefit – rather than just something to benefit the employee, regardless of its effects on others.
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