IT IS EITHER the best of times or the worst of times to be a young worker in Australia. For the lucky ones with skills to sell and the confidence and experience to negotiate a high price for their labour, there are rich pickings in the Australian job market. For the under-educated and underemployed, for those who don’t know their rights or need a job too much to assert them, these are frightening times.
Each of these groups has provided poster children in the campaigns for and against the Howard Government’s WorkChoices Bill. With 688 pages of legislation already in action, the stage is set for the next phase of the debate. The government will defend itself against the siege of public opinion, and the union movement will reclaim some of its lost momentum by turning that opinion into action. But behind the struggle over the rights of workers lies a more subtle contest for the right to define what a worker is. The outcome of this contest could determine the future of our working lives.
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