“So, C, I was wondering, am I a part-time or full-time employee for the purposes of the award?”
“Why are you asking?”
“I think I’m entitled to a few days of paid holiday.”
“Paid holiday? That’s not how it works here.”
“Really? I’ve seen the award G showed me, and legally, I’m pretty sure that is how it works.”
“How much are you being paid?”
“$16.85.” Which is, as everyone who’s asked has told me, is piss.
(He told me that due to immense amounts of dickering with lawyers in Rockhampton, they had a scheme by which this barely-above-minimum wage also covered my holiday allowance. I said that I didn’t think that was right. He insisted it was.)
“Oh. Well, no worries if that’s the case. Could I read the relevant paperwork, though?”
“What time is it?”
“Er… three minutes past eight.”
“Right, you’ll get paid until then, I’ll finish your shift.”
“Did… did you just fire me?”
And thus end the Alpha Gateway status updates. This came on top of me having just transferred most of my money home to pay for Christmas presents and plane tickets to Melbourne, *and* on top of me having made several massive shopping trips to Emerald and thus having loads of food that needed refrigerating and eating. It could, in short, have come at a better time.
Since pretty much all the truckies and the various Poms who worked at the Gateway as backpackers before shacking up with an Aussie bloke and never coming back (of which there are three or four in this town – everyone seems to have worked here at some point, and almost none of them have a nice word to say about C) had warned me that C had a habit of fucking backpackers over with wild and gay abandon. Accordingly, I’d been planning a potential Operation Breakout in case shit hit fan and/or I got an offer of a better job out where Caroline is (which is some Aboriginal community even further from anywhere than here, and apparently rather Exciting – she’s been keeping an excellent blog about it here), so ten minutes after redundancy, I’d told my co-workers the news (to bleary “what the fuck”) and was ringing a bunch of phone numbers for places to crash. And an hour later, I’d returned Nola’s books, sold some of my frozen food to coworkers, had absolutely everything packed up and was being lifted by J to V’s, where I was put in an air-conditioned room and had my repeated offers of rent turned down.
I have several legal options, which my new hosts are strongly encouraging me to take, because apparently they do this sort of thing regularly and nobody’s had the balls/nous to take them down a peg over it. Additionally, it’s good legal practice and I’m rather annoyed at them. (I told G that I was concerned over their “deposit” bond a while ago and she told me extremely insistently that they weren’t the type to fuck their employees over. And now here we are.) So I’ve sent G a reasonable email asking for my outstanding pay and the return of the house deposit if they took it, on top of the reasonable email I sent last week asking for my late payslip. So far, I’ve had no response to either. If they aren’t forthcoming I intend to bring the full weight of Fair Work Australia down on their heads, starting with an unfair dismissal claim and finishing with a retroactive request for all the unpaid overtime at the start and end of each shift (for which I’ve got plenty of documentation.) What did they think was going to happen when they screwed over a wannabe lawyer, honestly?
For now, I need to see if V has enough work going to actually support me for the next few weeks (and if I can handle his fairly tough brand of physical labouring, which I don’t think will be a problem), and need to plan my way back down to Sydney for Christmas. Which I can now do entirely at my leisure.
This has all gone much less catastrophically than it could have, so far.
A Gateway Status Last Roundup:
Of all the little bits of Australiana I’ve been reading lately, the absurd 1890s newspaper flamewar between Banjo Paterson and Henry Lawson is one of the funniest. Two chaps writing increasingly tetchy poems insisting the other didn’t know shit about the bush.
Like fin de siecle diss tracks, except about stockmen, billabongs and rural hardship instead of gats and hos.
I don’t know which part is better, the fact that the whole thing was basically a cynical ploy to drum up public interest, or the fact that they were both city-dwellers insisting with great passion that their version of the countryside was the right and authentic one.
It rained last night, so this morning I finally got to indulge in that most English of pastimes: talking about the weather. (Not that there was anything stopping me before, but “how about those weeks and weeks of monotonous cloudlessness and bake-oven heat, eh?” is a bit limp.)
It’s been raining torrentially, with CONSTANT lightning (seriously, this is the most dramatic I’ve ever seen; more than makes up for a fireworkless Nov 5) for hours. There’s water coming in the side of the shop and I am sincerely telling customers “be safe, don’t drown.”
I am genuinely thankful that I live in a house on stilts.
(Observing road train, talking to truckie taking shelter. Huge bolts of lightning splitting the sky every ten-fifteen seconds):
“Rather not be driving one of those out in the open!”
“Ah, they tell me the tyres act as an insulator, so she’ll be right. Unless I get hit twice. Then, five kilometre blast radius.”
“What? What the fuck do you have in there?”
“Ammonium nitrate, mate. Forty tonnes.”
“…I see. Would you mind parking somewhere else?”
(“Somewhere else” being Adelaide, for preference. From WW1 practical studies of what forty tonnes of ammonal can do, if he took a direct hit I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t be able to find the town.)
An English couple managed to enter six consecutive wrong PINs and lock both their cards while trying to buy fuel (as well as flailing for several minutes with Oz’s admittedly bizarre “pick your account” EFTPOS system.) Their Aussie friend stepped in and effortlessly sorted them out, and as the receipt whirred she and I exchanged a look that said, very clearly, “bloody Poms, eh?”