Slave To The Wage

Posted: June 27, 2012 in HSU Saga

Some of you may remember a post I did earlier on a man named Rob Elliot, and how he had the best job, not only in Jacksonville, but possibly in the world.

Rob was paid a fortune for years for doing absolutely nothing, care of the HSU Members. It seemed Kathy Jackson and Michael Williamson thought it was a good idea, so it just happened.

Today I wanted to look at the flipside of this coin, and take a look at what could well be the worst jobs in Australia.

I wanted to try and put a bit of perspective into things. It is easy to forget the people this fight is all about, and I don’t mean the Jacskon’s, Williamson, or even Craig Thomson. I am talking about the members, the ones who are paying their fee’s, and keeping the Jacksons in the lavish lifestyle to which they have become accustomed.

I know most of you were probably under the assumption that slavery had been abolished long ago. Well, after reading this post you may well think again. The predominantly women who do the jobs I will be describing, certainly seem to have similarities to slaves in my eyes.

I would like to introduce you to Maria.

Maria, not her real name, is a 39 year old single mother of 2 from Hebersham Sydney, who works for a Linen Service.

The Parramatta Linen Service, is a laundry service that looks after the laundry needs of several hospitals. Maria travels an hour each way, each day, to work there, catching a train and then a bus. Once there Maria works an 8 hour day in conditions that most people would struggle with. Being a laundry, there are dryers going constantly, and wet sheets awaiting the dryers. The air is thick and steamy, and the work is hard. Some days it is not unlike working in a sauna, one that stinks.

Being hospital sheets, many come in less than clean, as you can probably imagine. They arrive in huge canvas bags, and the stench when opening them is often enough to knock out an elephant. Maria pull sheets out that are often covered in blood, urine, faeces, and vomit. Often found entwined in the laundry are little nasty’s like scalpels, scissors, and dirty needles.

Imagine sticking your hands into these bags all day, it must be a bit like an unlucky dip.

The Parramatta Linen Service runs on a bell system. This means, it is like a production line. A bell rings to tell you it’s morning tea, a bell rings to tell you it’s lunch, and a bell tells you it’s knock off time. There is no chance to sneak out for a break. By the time the day is over, you feel like you have just done a double-shift.

For working this 38 hour week, Maria earns a gross wage of $780 a week, or $20.53 an hour. After tax, she takes home $672 a week. Out of that she pays $300 rent for her 3 bedroom house, which is no palace I am assured.

I am told that I should try bringing up 2 children on $372 a week. Bearing in mind, Maria still has to pay for her trips to and from work, her children’s educational needs, groceries and utilities.

I think I’ll give it a miss.

Maria receives no help from the children’s father, who finally left Maria 5 years ago, after Maria had put up with years of physical abuse and torment. Shortly afterwards her husband died in a car accident after a being at a pub most of the night.

To say Maria does things tough is an understatement of extreme proportions.

On top of all this, Maria pays $23 a fortnight for membership to her union. The Health Services Union.

If you think that Maria has a crappy job, you are right. Spare a thought however, for those who work in the Private Aged Care sector doing laundry.

These poor souls, deal with all the same issues, the blood, the vomit, the urine, and the faeces, only in smaller laundry’s.

Most of these workers work as part of a team of 3 women. These women would typically look after the laundry needs of a 250 bed nursing home, a home full of elderly people with dodgy bladder and bowel control.

This is not only dirty, smelly, and sickening work, but also back breaking work as well. There are the sacks of bedclothes to lift, and loads of wet sheets to lift also. Just like Maria, these people work in steamy laundry’s, however unlike Maria they are not fortunate enough to have a full time job.

These ladies typically work a 35 hour week and are employed as casuals. The reason for this, is that working 35 hours means their employer doesn’t need to give them a day off each month, as they would if the ladies were full time on a 38 hour week.

This however is not the major difference. If you thought Maria was struggling to make ends meet, you’d best brace yourself.

These ladies, who are amongst our hardest working, earn just $17.84 an hour. That is $155.60 less than Maria before tax. Imagine yourself trying to live off that.

Once again, these ladies pay the same union fee’s to the Health Services Union.

Some ladies that you may be more familiar with, are the ladies who clean our hospitals. These ladies work the same 38 hours as Maria, and clean an average of 20 bathrooms a day, and the corridors between them.

Mopping up puke, and unblocking toilets overflowing with piss and shit is all part of the normal days work. Risking being pricked by dirty needles is just a part of their daily routine.

Anyone got a chux?

These people really do do the jobs most of us would never do. We owe them not only our gratitude, but a decent rate of pay, working conditions that are as clean and safe as possible, and above all, a union that looks after it’s members.

These people whose jobs I have gone into are all based in NSW, things are different in Victoria under Ted Baillieu and the Coalition.

Fortunately, in Victoria, the union fee’s are lower, $21.15 a fortnight, but it ain’t all good news that’s for sure.

In Victoria, for Skill Level 1 work, such as that described above, and other jobs like a food assistant, working in a hot hospital kitchen, the wages are $685 a week for a 40 hour week.

That’s right, $95 less for an extra 2 hours work. I bet they have trouble hiring staff in Wodonga.

Those in Victoria needn’t worry though. Barry O’Farrell may not have been able to cut the wages in NSW, but he made up for it by destroying the workers compensation scheme. That way, when someone catches HIV from a needle, or gets some nasty disease, the government can wash it hands of them. As for the wages, he has made sure that they won’t keep up with inflation. You want to hope Ted hasn’t noticed…

These people are the lifeblood of the HSU, their core members. These are the lowest paid workers we hear about all the time from the media. These are the people the HSU take money from each fortnight. These are the people who should be looking to their union for help, not looking at their money being wasted by their unions leaders.

How sick these people must feel seeing the waste, the unnecessary spending, the corruption, and the plain greed that appears to be rife in the union they pay for.

The contrast between the core member, and those who have been running the union couldn’t be greater.

Kathy Jacksons court costs in her recent Federal Court appearance look like they will surpass the annual wage of Maria, or any of the other workers I’ve described. Oh, and I mean they will surpass it in 1 day, actually by the time the court has its lunch break.

This court case is so that Kathy can maintain her immense salary of at least $270,000 plus car and other benefits. The salary she told us on 7 30 she didn’t deserve.

These hard working members must have felt like they had been kicked in the guts, when they heard that 2 children, a 15 and a 17 year old were worth over $24 an hour, while they slogged it out for less than $18. How humiliating that must have been. It would have been enraging to then find out that these children were Michael Lawler’s children, Kathy Jackson’s partners children.

Yesterday Jackson had this to say on the matter:

“Matthew and Donald are both extremely intelligent and impressive young men,”

“I considered that the branch was fortunate to have persons of their ability available to take that work.

“In each case, the engagement, and the connection with my partner, was disclosed to the (union’s management committee) and the engagement approved,”

Cold comfort indeed for those struggling to support children of the same age, particularly on the wages such as those above. Nor do the members care how impressive these kids are, or the extent of their alleged abilities. What abilities did these kids have anyway? After all they were still at school

The fact remains that Kathy decided these children were worth paying approximately 30% more than many union members are paid.

I would love to hear the details on what work was done by these kids, they clearly worked unsupervised as they operated from a different state. Not only that, according to their payslips they worked on a weekend when the HSU offices were closed.

I would imagine Michael Lawler’s ex-wife would have major issues with Michael allowing her sons to become mixed up in all of this. Actually, I reckon she would be absolutely fuming. After all her sons may need to be questioned by police, and could end up witnesses in court. Livid would be an understatement I think…

How demeaning also, to find out that Jeff Jacksons Foxtel was being paid on the union credit card, while so many of the members paying for that card could hardly afford to watch free to air TV. These are the same members who struggle to afford McDonalds for the kids as a treat, while Jeff Jackson spent over $29,500 at bars and restaurants on the union card.

Kathy Jackson, according to the HSU number 3 Branch bank account records, spent over $159,000 in just over 12 months on her 3 credit cards, paid for by the union. That is nearly 4 years salary for these members, and this is just on the credit cards.

The seemingly endless stream of consultancy fee’s, honorarium payments, cash cheques, and questionable payments must make the members hearts sink.

The $150,000 salary for Rob Elliott for doing nothing, even though he hadn’t worked at the union for years must be close to being the straw that broke the camels back.

It is important to remember that the real victims of this saga are these workers, these are the people that need protection.

In the course of my look inside this union that has been driven virtually into the ground, I have come across many people that are fighting hard for their members, and a few that are fighting hard for their own interests.

Those who are fighting for the members need to be supported, and I hope that these people can save this union. The members need you more than ever, especially now that we have so many hostile state governments.

I hope the police can sort this out sooner rather than later, these poor members have been robbed for too long.

Far too long.

Some people would consider the union fee’s spare change.

Spare change is something these people ain’t got.

  1. Bella says:

    Thanks Peter once again for these revelations. They put everything into perspective. What a sad, sad situation! Let’s hope this case can now be dealt with quickly for the sake of all these poor workers.

  2. Oh my I’m goose bumping hard and they are the forgotten ones in this sordid saga 😦 Thanks for a great piece Peter.

  3. mafalda says:

    So heartbreaking to read this, as we all go about our daily work, not really aware of hard these people work – doing all the dirty and very unpleasant jobs that most of us couldn’t even contemplate, let along do on a daily basis, week after week, month after month, year after year. KJ’s dirty deeds will hopefully be investigated by the police, and exposed, but I some how doubt very much that she’ll end up cleaning bed sheets or toilets.

    thank you Peter and team for a job well done.

  4. deknarf says:

    I’m surprised that there are still actually members of the HSU. Given the conditions you describe it would appear that the union leaders are taking salaries and dishing out platitudes, and little else. Save your money — exit the union (join another if you wish) and save your $21 a fortnight. I’m sure you could put it to better use.
    Nice piece!

  5. debbiep says:

    Not only is this a SAD( & heartbreaking) situation it also shows us morals. And whether we believe it or not our behaviour will be passed on . So it is the real ‘wealth’ of life.

  6. catebla says:

    Great to hear a warrior, if generally unheard, for workers. Sad but true. Don’t give up. Keep fighting. Thanks for being a cool, clear, reasonable voice amidst lies, rhetoric, self-aggrandisement, job-saving, ego, etc, etc. I’ve followed every word of yours on ‘Jacksonville’ from the outset. Well done.

  7. Sandra says:

    Well articulated Peter, as a former union delegate for the ASU (working in a hospital, albeit in a clerical position) I was witness to these hardworking undervalued and underpaid people. Letting the rest of the general public know that parts of the HSU and their members have been well and truly been duped by people they ought to have been able to trust has to be applauded. It would a great shame if this blight were to be extended to the rest of the Union Movement who’s work is only to protect workers and their rights.
    Great work Peter.

  8. thereal2bob says:

    Kathy Jackson, Godwin Gretch, James Ashby and Karen Doane all appear to have ruined their careers in an attempt to besmirch our government. Will any of them ever appear in court for their actions? Will it matter? The MSM have already moved on and most people would not even be aware that the targets of these people have basically been exonerated by the corrupt actions of their accusers. It appears that most Australians really are too dumb to comprehend what is happening and too ignorant to care. Lucky country pffft it is all but over.

  9. chantal says:

    Keep up you relentless pursuit of the facts Wixxy and IA. The MSM and their cheque book journalism ethics failed on all counts in this saga to explore the real story. The real story is here, ordinary workers , who stretch their meagre pay to make ends meet, working in some really tough conditions , loyally paying their union dues for years , only to be fleeced by self serving , grubby union hacks.

  10. Frances Jones says:

    It’s so difficult to get your head around people who behave like that. The psychopaths and sociopaths amongst us are out to get whatever they can. It’s so sick. It’s very sad that there are people who have been so deprived and uncared for that they’ll use the wages of someone struggling, to live the high life, to gratify their own desires. People who weren’t brought up with empathy will take whatever they want, without any concern for who they’re taking it from.
    Kathy Jackson comes from a difficult emotional place. She attempted suicide last year, she wasn’t able to live with herself.
    If ‘Maria’ is reading this, all the best to you, my thoughts are with you and your children. I wish life could be easier for you.

  11. Marilyn says:

    How do we know she tried to kill herself though when she is not capable of honesty about anything.

  12. […] of you may remember my article that talked about some of the HSU members, like Maria. The people who work in the toughest conditions for the barest minimum of a […]

  13. […] of you may remember my article that talked about some of the HSU members, like Maria. The people who work in the toughest conditions for the barest minimum of a wage. Marco Balano: […]

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