Working is no laughing matter

By Rhonda Dredge

By 7.30 am office workers were spilling out of the great mouth of Flinders Street Station but they weren’t exactly laughing about the prospect of taking up their desks again for 2019. 

Most had backpacks, one was doing a last-minute check of a report and all were looking glum as they waited for the lights to change.

The CBD is seen as a fanciful place by visitors with lanes full of sparrows and artists and alluring doors leading off shady passages.

Not for most of the CBD’s 200,000 workers who present their passes to electronic sensors and take lifts up to standardised cubes where they engage in business services.

Dress was smart, yet surprisingly casual, among these early-risers in January. Only a few were wearing jackets. 

They did not look nearly as uniform as those suited-clones depicted in John Brack’s famous 1955 painting Collins Street, 5 pm. 

By 9.30 am, however, the real work of the city was underway. There were formal suits and cases full of files on the streets and the serious business of earning and maintaining a living had begun.

Anna Cousens and Patrick Larkens, of the Federation of Air Pilots, were on the steps of the Fair Work Commission by 10 January with a pay claim, possibly the first for the year. 

“Tigerair pilots haven’t had a pay rise for over two years,” Ms Cousins said and the pilots had commenced protected industrial action just as workers were preparing to return home to Melbourne from up the coast.

 “At least 10 flights were cancelled over the weekend,” she said.  She said her association was pushing for conciliation on the claim before another pending action a few days further into January.

Returning to work in the summer asphalt after two weeks of annual leave soaking up sun and hanging out on beaches can be a daunting prospect even without the cancellation of flights.

According to Australian Unity Health Insurance, annual leave is highly beneficial. It results in reduced stress, extended life, improved mood, better social life, reduced risk of heart disease and greater workplace productivity. 

But what if you are stuck at an airport, have to rush back into full battle gear or are expected to do performance appraisals the first week back? 

Some workers prefer to avoid the painful transition altogether and spend their holidays at home shopping, eating and mixing with friends. 

Sunny Kim, an educator from Balwyn, and her two sons visited the city 12 times during their two-week break.  

Sunny comes from Seoul, a massive city of eight million. “Even far from the centre it’s still big and busy,” she says. In Melbourne “the CBD itself is nice and good but the size is far too small.”

The CBD mightn’t feel small compared to the seaside villages holidayers prefer. 

A further 270,000 people visit daily to shop and hang out, with more than half from metropolitan Melbourne. By the beginning of February they will be joined by an influx of 82,000 students, some passing through but others contributing to the go-head vibe of the city.

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