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Working for the Man

Published on August 7, 2014 by Michael Barnes

When Roy Orbison in 1962 wrote and sang the song “Working For The Man”, it may well be that he was reflecting his times and the working conditions for the American unskilled and semi-skilled workforce.

He sang of a worker who had a lotta lotta work to do. Pick up your feet we got a deadline to meet. I’m gonna see you make it on time. Don’t relax. I want elbows and backs. I want to see everybody from behind. ‘Cause your working for the man.

He sang of:

  1. slaving all day
  2. abiding his time
  3. in a relationship with the boss man’s daughter who at various times was treating him right.

This worker had hopes for his future however he appeared to see his future as emulating his boss as he was just “abiding my time” until one day “the company and the daughter” would “be all mine”.

One would like to think in contemporary Australia that workers wouldn’t have to rely upon the same methods to achieve an improvement in the quality of the terms and conditions of their employment.

In contemporary Australia we can look to protections and entitlements under:

  1. the National Employment Standard in the Fair Work Act;
  2. the provisions of a modern Award or any enterprise agreement that might apply.

There would be no slaving all day without much pay, as if payment of wages was discretionary, and he would have opportunities to advance his position and the position of his colleagues as he would have the right of freedom of association and he could join a union to advance his interests.

Unions have many objectives and they include:

  • To protect and improve to the fullest possible extent the interest of members and in particular, and without limiting the ordinary meaning of those words;
  • To obtain and maintain fair wages, hours of work and other conditions of employment of members, either by award, industrial agreement or other lawful means.
  • To secure redress for any grievances to which members or any of them may become subject;and
  • To create and promote equality of opportunity in employment and promotion within employment.

If we are concerned about an underpayment of wages he could now go to a statutory body such as the Fair Work Ombudsman, or the Chief Industrial Magistrate’s Court.

So this worker if living in contemporary Australia has other options. At the times that Roy Orbison was singing the options were clearly very limited.

Although it still would have been open to this worker in those times to seek to enhance the conditions of employment for all rather than simply aspiring to take the place of his existing boss so he could be the Man.

If he adopted a more inclusive approach it could be he would still get the “Pretty Woman” and she would still treat him right.

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