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Penalty rates and the Lord’s Day Observance

Taking a penalty.
Why all the fuss about penalty rates for working on Sunday?
Anyone who has seen Chariots of Fire will remember the central issue in it.
Eric Liddell, a young Scot in training to be a Minister of the Church and selected for an event in the Olympic Games, refused to go further when it transpired that he was to compete on a Sunday.
To him there was to be nothing done on Sunday Sunday was to be given over to rest from labouring, to family, to reading his Bible…

He was part of the spirit of his time, and the time before his time, and the time before that time too.
Those with a taste for 19th century literature will recall reading that working on a Sunday was the Wrong Thing. Profane. Agitation was common that trains must not run on Sunday.
What makes Sunday so different that you have to get double time for working on it? Is it much hotter on a Sunday? Is work more enervating? Does it age you prematurely? Does it rain more, does the wind blow more strongly, are sounds harsher, does the light blind you, do citizens mock you?
Occasionally, when questions like this and the worries of the world generally settle on my shoulders like a flock of pecking ravens, I turn to my old hookah, get my quart of medically approved bong water, and think and think.
And what I think is that the Labour Parties of every country, working through secret meetings with the Lords Day Observance Society, conspired to take us back to the Victorian age. Together they worked to decree Sunday as a Sacred Day. A Sacred Day for worship, and a Sacred Day for gouging Wages Penalties.
It was a sure fire winner. Morality added to union demands. Suited the unions and suited the Lord’s Day people – if you are not working then you have more time to worship and read your Bible.
It’s the very same principle that applies on cigarette duties. Keep raising the tax on ciggies and you have eliminated smoking in the end.
Keep raising the penalty for working on Sunday and you eliminate Sunday trading.
As a gesture to the Jews among us, Labor organisers decreed in their sacred writing, called The Awards, that Saturday should be a semi-sacred day and it is time and a half on that day.
This was so successful, so readily accepted by society, that they looked further to sanctify other times. They then made the Hours of Moonlight, or “Night” as it is prosaically known in The Awards, to have penalties attached to those hours too.
The penalties are thrashed out and settled by the representatives of those who work during those times and those who have to pay them.
So, without realising it, mankind came to see that the days of the week and the hours of the day could be categorised and divided and sliced and diced into hours of work, and hours of no-work. Exemptions were given to the days and hours of no-work by paying higher wages.
Pay more money for work on these arbitrary times and you could employ people.
There was no excuse for it, no reasonable rationale, no justification. It just was. Just is.
That is why when you visit a country town say on a Sunday, the place is deserted. There is one coffee shop open out of maybe a dozen. All the other shops are shut.
That is why platoons of workers are available for working Saturday and Sunday only. As far as they are concerned they make enough to take five days off.
Sunday is a day to remember and reflect how industrial power restored observance of the Lord’s Day.
You were penalised in the old days for not recognising the Lord’s Day; you still are – it’s just that the one paying the penalty has changed.

{ 13 comments… add one }
  • luk1955 06/03/2017, 7:09 am

    CEOs get paid Sunday rates, it is just built into their excessively high pay packets. Of course, they get Sunday off, but expect the low people in the company to work for weekday rates. They get their Sundays off but want the rest of us to work that day while the CEO gets to enjoy their Sunday roast dinner. If you take public transport to work on Sunday, it takes 20% longer to get to and from work. So for instance, my Sunday travel time to the GP round trip takes 5 hours on Sunday, 4 hours on the other days. Mind you after working 14 hour day, plus 5 hours transport, gives me 5 hours to sleep, eat, prepare next days meals for the job, bathe and eat breakfast the next day.

  • Spinbuster 06/03/2017, 7:34 am

    I don’t think I will be able to provide objective discussion on such matters for some years to come.
    I keep thinking of Ahmed Fahour and his 5.6 million.
    $5600000/365 = $15342.46 per day
    $15342.46/12 = $1278.53 per hour
    $1278.53/60 = $21.30 per minute


    • Jack Richards 06/03/2017, 11:23 am

      Your calculations are wrong. There are 365 days in a year but you have to deduct 20 days annual leave, 104 days for weekends, and 9 days for public holidays. That leaves 232 working days for Mr Post Office.

      That works out at $24,137.93 per working day. The PO standard is a 37.5 hour week so that works out at $3,218.39 per hour or $53.64/minute – or just a miserlb $0.89 per second.

      Now, we need to put this into perspective. A single aged pensioner collecting the base pension plus the maximum pension supplement and the energy supplement collects $22,874. 77 per annum. So Mr Fahour only colleced $1,263.16 more for each working day than a pensioner received – from the same tax payer source – for a whole year.

      • Spinbuster 06/03/2017, 1:55 pm

        Right on the money ..Pun Intended!

    • Joe Blogs 06/03/2017, 5:53 pm

      There’s no specific correlation between exec and staff salaries. Exec packages include – as well as KPIs – other “loadings” for responsibility, accountability, profit, loss, WHS, networks, “unlimited” hours, stress, burnout, family, and longevity. That includes attending to work issues while on sick / holiday leave and other things that aren’t covered by employment contracts.

      It’s interesting to calculate rates as in this ridiculous case; but comparing them doesn’t necessarily mean much.

  • Peter Sandery 06/03/2017, 7:41 am

    Just another name for tithes or penance then?

  • Moree 06/03/2017, 7:49 am

    Peter. Nail. Head.

  • Maryanne 06/03/2017, 9:24 am

    Well I liked it when Australia used to shut down on Saturday afternoons and Sundays – a legacy of our Christian heritage even for pagans and atheists. People didn’t watch professional sport on TV; they watched their own teams at the local footy grounds and cricket ovals. I recall my father playing cricket. Young fathers today could never commit themselves to a team sport.

    I remember regular Sunday lunches, sometimes with the extended family. It was a rested and peaceful society. I recall reading about a young Australian man who spent some time in France. Inititially he was stressed by the Sunday shut downs, but eventually grew to love and appreciate those leisurely Sunday lunches.

    As for night work, it’s beyond dispute that humans suffer ill effects from shift work.

    To have a day of rest is a civilized custom. The 24/7 economy is not civilized.

    Penalty rates? For day time work they are justified in a civilized society, but probably not in the barbarous 24/7 economy. For night work, they should certainly apply.

    • Albert 06/03/2017, 10:45 am

      Maryanne, unfortunately those days are long gone and society is the worse for their passing.

      • Joe Blogs 06/03/2017, 5:55 pm

        Agree, Maryanne, Albert.

  • Lorraine 06/03/2017, 9:27 am

    In our town the local take away has closed its doors and we now have a side of the road caravan ,that opens at about 12 noon 4 days a week………1 self employed owner no staff

  • Zoltan 06/03/2017, 10:50 am

    Having lived in England many a year, a country noted for being the “head” of the Church Of England, where the shops (omitting muslim etc corner shops) open just about every day bar Xmas day (especially pertinent at Easter, THE most important Christian festival that the whole faith is based on) it surprises me how we here in our secular country often seem much more observant of things biblical than there.
    As an atheist, I like it.
    Like Moree, I think Peter hit the nail squarely.

  • DB8tr 07/03/2017, 9:52 am

    Sorry to offer a caveat, but surgeons fixing your body (lest you die) on a Sunday or at 11pm on a Monday, still ahem, work. As do people like me providing the parts. I have no holidays, no penalty rates, no long service leave, no sick leave (and have always worked with fevers, viruses, flu’s and even after 2 hours after waking up myself from surgery – on the same day). Thats because I have my own business – like thousands and thousands of people in Australia. Its called ‘life’. Oh and I have no retirement package.

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