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News Media Releases Work-Life Balance: Have you got it right?
Work-Life Balance: Have you got it right?
Thursday, 07 October 2010 10:59

By Simone McGurk, UnionsWA Secretary.

Thursday the 7th of October is the third annual World Day for Decent Work (WDDW).

A decent life – including a balance between work, rest and recreation and having the financial security to look after ourselves and our families – is inextricably linked to decent work making it essential that we recognise the importance of this day.

This year, millions of people around the world are feeling the continuing impacts of the Global Financial Crisis compounded by the austerity measures currently being implemented by many Government’s in response.

For many people in WA, these problems feel like a world away. All the dominant chatter here is about mining booms, labour shortages and interest rates rises (a sign of a rapidly expanding economy).

But this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pause to reflect on our work-life balance and to address areas where working conditions have room for improvement.

According to the 2010 Australian Work and Life Index (AWALI) report, six out of 10 Australian workers stockpile their annual leave and don’t take holidays

Compiled by the University of South Australia, the report shows that while some of these workers are saving their leave to take a holiday at another time, many others say their job is just too demanding to think about taking time off.

Drill down a bit further and you’ll find a rising occurrence of people who don’t take leave because they fear having to face unread emails upon return.

So what’s better than spending time with family and friends relaxing on a beach? An updated and ordered Inbox apparently.

It is timely here to remember the saying “No one ever lay on their death bed and thought they should have spent more time in the office.”

The key to decent work is the ability to enjoy a decent amount of time off.

Many people look enviously at the famed salaries of the WA FIFO (fly in – fly out) workers, but rarely is there any consideration of the social impacts this type of work has.

Those big salaries often come with significant family and personal pressures caused by the long absences from home and the long hours while at work.

I recently met a guy on a plane who flew in and out from Auckland. Due to the structure of flights he lost 24 hours each way from his leave time. He struck me as a classic example of the conundrum facing these workers, he had enough frequent flyer points to take the kids to Disneyland, yet his wife had just left him.

We are starting to see some real evidence of increased rates of depression, suicide and divorce amongst these workers.

What is more their jobs are often dangerous and the safety risks don’t seem to be getting any better when you look at the figures of workplace deaths and injuries.

Decent work does not compromise a worker’s health and safety or negatively affect their family life.

At the opposite end of the wages spectrum to the FIFO workers there are many, many workers who work hard in WA only to face a weekly battle paying bills and mortgages.

Workers in our hospitals are a good example, with hospital support staff currently fighting for a $1.20 an hour wage increase.

Many of these workers work full time for less than 40K a year and are struggling to cope with the 40 percent increases on their electricity bills and the 25 percent increases on their water bills.

An issue at the heart of the recent train driver’s dispute was the fact that these workers were tired of needing to constantly work over-time to pay the bills.

Inherent to decent work is decent pay and conditions. WA workers providing essential services to the community should not have to live with such financial pressure and the stress it entails.

We may have sailed through the GFC and its continuing impacts relatively unscathed but when you consider that decent work involves decent conditions, decent pay and a decent amount of time off the above examples indicate that there remains work to be done in WA.

This article first appeared on

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