Penalty rates: Why should Sunday stay special?

Thu, 02 Mar 2017  |  

Click on the link to hear the podcast of me on The Minefield talking Sunday penalty rates, among other things, with Scott Stephens and Waleed Aly.

https://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/theminefield/penalty-rates:-why-should-sunday-stay-special/8310496 

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Late last week, the Fair Work Commission handed down its long awaited decision to reduce penalty rates for Sunday workers in fast-food, retail and hospitality.

Federal politicians promptly framed the matter in the predictable terms of the conflict between the interests of Capital and the interests of Labour, and took their sides accordingly. But is the tension between Capital and Labour – the sustainability of small business versus the rights of workers – really what is at the heart of this matter, or is there something deeper at stake?

One of the more conspicuous effects of secular modernity has been to de-sacralise or de-differentiate time: there are no more Sabbaths and no more holy days; leisure is more of an obligatory respite from work than an occasion to enjoy what is of greater worth; time is reduced to an undifferentiated commodity whose sole value resides in its ability to create more value. Within this logic, the very idea of ‘weekends’ cannot finally be anything more than quaint, an illegitimate leftover from a different age.

Questions of economic justice and the relationship between economy and society are, to be sure, central to the current arguments over penalty rates. But unless we revisit the relationship between time and non-economic conceptions of value, it is doubtful that any argument can long withstand the inexorable logic of capitalism.

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