Stolen wages is not a new phenomenon in Australia, but the sheer contempt shown for workers by employers is astonishing, advocates say.
Writing almost 100 years ago, the great John Maynard Keynes predicted the most significant problem confronting workers in the 21st century would be one of irreducible boredom, because — so the thinking went — climbing living standards would inevitably confine the average working week to 15 hours.
Far from suffering an excess in leisure time, however, the permanent condition of the modern age for many workers in Australia resembles something closer to vassalage. Exhaustion is rampant, real wages are falling, insecure work and unpaid overtime are rising, and wage theft is rife.
From this vantage point, the greatest difficulty many workers are forced to contend with is not boredom per se but that posed by the daily sundering of the hard-won and stinting labour protections their forebears secured.
Read more about how the university sector in particular has ripped off its workers.
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