Mixed views on merits of unpaid labour

Adrian Pirie
Adrian Pirie
Trevor Harper

Trevor Harper

Jennifer Hertel

Jennifer Hertel

Elke Weinbrecht

Elke Weinbrecht

UNPAID work across the country has risen as the economic belt tightens, according to a new report.

But Dubbo residents have debated the idea that unpaid work is exploitative of skilled people looking for experience.

University of Adelaide labour expert Andrew Stuart, co-author of the report, said that in some cases the practice could be considered a risk.

"Free labour can result in employment being squeezed out, which means someone is missing out in making a livelihood," he said.

The report was not concerned with volunteers or work experience programs linked to education.

In Dubbo feelings were mixed when the Daily Liberal attempted to find out what residents thought about the definition of work experience.

Adrian Pirie was one to question the practice, asking what a reasonable timeframe was for unpaid employment.

"There's no problem with it if employers want to try someone out, and the person may not like what they're doing anyway," he said.

"It depends though, you couldn't do that for three months."

Elke Weinbrecht saw the good and bad qualities of the situation as dependent on what the person wanted out of it.

"It's good when you're not getting experience and you can gain experience," she said.

"On the other hand it can get exploitative, work is supposed to be paid even if it's part-time."

Jennifer Hertel also thought it was a grey area even after she once gained employment through putting in lots of unpaid work.

"I spent a year volunteering at a job and was better prepared for what was involved," she said.

"I was hired over someone else who had more experience because they had already trained me.

"I think now it's harder to pay but people should be paid - even a small wage is a difference."

Trevor Harper had not been in a position of working unpaid but disagreed, saying everyone deserved a pay cheque.

"They have the skills and confidence to work, they should get paid for their experience," he said.

Dubbo Chamber of Commerce and Industry president John Cook did not return the Daily Liberal's calls by the time of going to print.


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