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News News Children work longer for same money under WorkChoices
SCHOOL students as young as 15 are working at least 10 hours a week, often into the early hours, to make up for lost penalty rates under WorkChoices legislation, a study has found.

 Research for the state's teachers' union shows half of respondents in years 10, 11 and 12 were working 10 hours and more a week, mainly in retail and hospitality.

Of the 300 students surveyed, 32 per cent worked 10 to 15 hours a week and 18 per cent worked 16 hours or more. Boys worked more hours than girls overall, but more females were working 13 hours or more in jobs such as waitressing.

The survey is supported by national figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which show 53 per cent of 15- to 19-year-olds work part time.

Randall Pearce, from Think: Insight and Advice, which conducted the study, said students who were working more than 15 hours said they were going to school feeling tired. They were also more likely not to hand in homework and assignments. Those who worked the longest hours also tended to work the latest shifts, a combination which affected school performance.

The study found that 83 per cent of students were more likely to be scheduled for Sunday shifts and public holidays because they were cheaper to employ. Mr Pearce said many children were forced to sign AWAs and earned flat rates. He said the loss of penalty rates on Sundays and public holidays had made it necessary for many students to work longer hours to earn the same income.

"The impact of WorkChoices is felt particularly keenly by this group of students because they primarily work in the hospitality and retail sector," he said. "Students in year 12 were very conscious of the unequal treatment their younger colleagues were getting. The younger kids were getting paid less for doing the same work. The younger students were very conscious of the fact that they are there simply because they are cheaper to hire." One year 12 boy said that his year 10 co-workers did not get paid extra on Sundays. "I offer to work Sundays but they don't always want me [at McDonald's]. But the young ones get rostered on every Sunday. They are paid $7 an hour while I get $20." Another boy who worked in a pizza shop said the manager overlooked more experienced staff to call in one of the 15-year-old girls "because they are cheaper".

Another student said a friend was asked to sign a contract. "If she didn't sign it she could lose her job, but if she did it would lower the amount that she got paid." The president of the NSW Teachers Federation, Maree O'Halloran said the union commissioned the study because teachers had expressed concerns about the growing number of children who had lost a healthy balance between school and work. Shifts no longer ended at 9pm on a Thursday night at supermarkets, but ran all through the week and into the early morning hours.

Teachers were also concerned about the neglect of student rights in the workplace. "The skills that students learn in the workplace and the level of maturity they develop is valuable," Ms O'Halloran said. "But we need to have a communication strategy to help young people balance work and their school life."

 

 
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