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An experience in retail and penalty rates
By John Luis Moretti

Johnny Moretti is a hard working guy who loves music. He worked with me for a while and his insight was great. His band, Pretty City is going really well. I spoke to him this morning as he and the band were driving to Sydney for a gig.

In response to the changing of penalty rates I've reproduced his Facebook post.

While I studied I used to work at maccas and once I turned 18 they started putting me on overnight shifts. 12-7AM. There were no penalty rates for overnight shifts. I would have to get permission a month out to get a night off on Friday or Saturday. Not only did it mean I couldn't socialise with friends and family during the evening but as I slept during the day it meant that I also didn't get to see them when I wasn't technically working. Friends would get upset that I couldn't come out. They blamed me for choosing to work those hours. Don't you live at home they'd say? Why do you need to work a shit job? Just tell them you can't work.

I worked in music retail for a few years after that. I'd work every weekend and often Thursday and Friday evenings too. Leading up to Christmas when everyone else was winding down and going to end of year parties I'd be working every hour I could. So much so that my family wouldn't even see me until Christmas morning when I was exhausted and cranky. You can imagine how delighted my mum was. My family and friends would tell me why do you have to work so much? Why can't you tell them you just can't work. Just say you're unavailable.

Then I worked as a mobile DJ for a while doing weddings and corporate parties. But again that was my Friday and Saturday nights and usually after I'd worked all day in retail too. I would get $90 for working 6-7 hours, plus travel time. People would say oh you love it though. So that's ok. It doesn't matter about the money then. You chose a job you love.

Music retail at one point introduced contracts with a lower hourly rate but guaranteed hours for casuals. They threatened all the casual employees that if they didn't sign these contracts that they could not guarantee on giving you shifts. They would have to prioritise employees who signed up for less money. I never signed. All the other people at my store did. They had their pays reduced and penalty rates taken. But then they also did NOT get their guaranteed hours. Their contracts meant nothing as employers based their rosters on customer demand. People were angry. But many stayed. Why? Because they had no choice. They were scared of losing one of the only jobs they could get. And they were bullied by their employers saying that less money means more work. It was a lie.

I've heard people say today and throughout my life say that if you don't like the conditions of the job then don't work there. Find a job somewhere else. It's your choice. If your family and friends mean so much to you then don't work at these jobs. But I didn't choose any of these things. No one choses to not see their family and friends. It's not a choice when the only jobs available are the ones that have shit conditions. I lived at home, but my home was rented. My parents don't have money. I had to work to pay my share. I wasn't saving up for a car or holiday. I had bills to pay. I didn't choose to work the lucrative weekend penalty rate days over regular weekdays. They were the only days I was available. And most of the time they weren't lucrative. Weekends are also the main time when people go out, rest and socialise. I had to give up those things in order to work. Working like this for years was not good for my health. I never rested. I got sick a lot. I got headaches frequently. It affected my relationships with family and friends. I'd never see them. I'd lose friends and disconnect with my family. Relationships I'm still trying to mend to this day.

Penalty rates are not a luxury. People aren't choosing to work weekends for more money. Choice is a lie. There is no choice.


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