WorkChoices wasn’t popular, however, it seems fear and desperation may just revive a type of pseudo – WorkChoices situation unless the government is quick to crack down on this trend.
AUSTRALIANS are offering their skills for as little as $4 an hour on websites that let them compete against each other for work in an eBay-like bidding system.
Blogging critics have dubbed the sites “digital sweatshops” that take advantage of stressed-out workers who resort to menial jobs at terrible rates.
With the unemployment rate expected to jump to 7 per cent next year, Australians are putting their skills forward for pay well below the minimum wage of $14.31 per hour, with one person asking for just $4 an hour for a writing and translation job.
Australian workers earned $283,000 on employment website Elance in 2008, an 8 per cent increase from 2007.
Sharan Burrow, President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), said she was concerned some employers would use the economic downturn to cut pay and conditions.
“Australian workers should carefully check whether jobs advertised on these websites pay the legal minimum rates if the job is based in Australia,” Ms Burrow said.
Australian employers are also turning to the virtual job market to find cheap employees: 1484 Australia-based accounts have hired an elancer in the past six months.
Australian bosses paid $US898,000 to online employees in 2008, up 44 per cent from $US624,000 in 2007.
Chief marketing officer at Elance Brad Porteus said the financial crisis had directly contributed to the increase in Australian users of the site.
“The macro-economic environment has certainly fuelled what has been a steady growth trend, as people become increasingly willing to explore this new way of working,” Mr Porteus said.
I’ve got to say that this is a very disturbing trend that really threatens the integrity of Australian labor relations. Just consider the amount of immigrants coming into Australia on working visas and the temptation for many employers to drastically reduce costs of labour. With the prospect of large scale unemployment will the employment market become a ‘race to the bottom’ ?
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