Life interrupted – 9

By the time I publish this, we will know the results of the vote, though no one is keen to see them. The Jobs Protection Framework passed the union vote at my place of work, so we all now get to vote.

The choice is between pay cuts or job cuts – take a pay cut and save some jobs or don’t and lose more jobs. It’s a wicked choice, that puts us in the position of being executioner to our colleagues’ livelihoods regardless of what side wins. I feel sick when I think about it.

Although it’s a sliding scale, the impact of the cuts (if voted yes) will be greater on people who are part time or professional positions. This of course means women because God knows there’s almost no scenario where we don’t come out worse off.

The fact that we are in this position says volumes about the government and none of it good. In my head, I imagine them smugly fist bumping each other for doing a good job of bringing universities to heel. The fact they are punishing ordinary people – well it’s our fault for working there in the first place.

Wickedness is not a term you hear much these days – it’s too biblical even if it just means wilfully immoral. But this prayer by Sarah Bessey, got my thinking about it this week particularly in the context of world leaders.

The Prime Minister of Australia is a practicing Christian, meaning unlike other world leaders he could definitely tell you his favourite bible verse. I deeply appreciate having a PM that prays…

Many of the PM policies are not line with Jesus’s teachings. The treatment of refugees is the most obvious with its mountainish inhumanity; but there are others too, like the refusal (until the pandemic) to increase Newstart allowance, despite the fact it left people living in poverty. Even during the pandemic the Jobkeeper payments have been selectively applied and were changed three times to deliberately cut out universities.

While I am certainly not in a position to judge, nor am I suggesting the PM’s faith isn’t genuine and deeply held. But if you are a Christian and in charge of a country then I will hold you to a higher standard. And if your policies are punitive, not for the greater good and almost entirely directed towards keeping the rich rich and the poor poor, well it does make you wonder.

It’s been three months since lockdown started, restriction were eased and then tightened again because people think somehow it’s all over. It isn’t. We will be lucky if we don’t all end up in lockdown again.

We had a return plan to go back to the office but that will now need to be revised. I am not in a rush to return. Nothing will feel normal there while it’s not full with friends and colleagues and worse it will now be tainted by this wretched vote.

After a long period of contract and casual work, my current workplace was a dream; I felt valued, I had friends and interesting work. But the happiness I felt there will never be quite as shiny now. What has been lost in this sense will never be regained – I wonder if leaders at MPoW know this, the damage to goodwill and people’s feelings will be hard to recapture.

For days, I’ve been clouded in blackness. How can any of what’s happening be fair? It’s times like this that I find faith a stretch. I mean it makes way more sense if we are alone in the universe than a God who thinks any of this is ok.

I don’t know what happens next, where to even look for the light. I wanted the world to change and it has. But it’s almost definitely not for the better.

Life Interrupted – 8

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

I’m not American or a Person of Colour but it would be hard to write another post without talking about what’s going on in the US. I hope this is a moment of real change, of breaking and reforming. I stand with the protestors, I feel their pain, #blacklivesmatter and I want to do whatever I can to make this better.

In Australia we have no less of an issue if you consider the appalling treatment for our Indigenous brothers and sisters. Since the 1991, over 400 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have died in custody with no convictions. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are by percentage of population are the most incarcerated people on earth. They have lower levels of numeracy and literacy, and lower life expectancy. It is a national disgrace.

As the above verse from the Beatitudes says, believers in Jesus are called to be peacemakers, which does mean keeping the peace (being neutral) but actively working towards peace. This means working to undo the systemic inequality that holds back People of Colour.

To do this we all need to our own work, as Sarah Bessey’s point out in her post A Kairos Moment, so we can be an allies to People of Colour. The “work” that is ours to do is informing myself, listening, being led by People of Colour, amplifying and centring their voices and experiences.

This work will be hard and needs deep reflection, asking ourselves and each others difficult questions, and facing truths that may not be palatable. But it is needed and necessary by everyone who sees the protests, who hears the cries of pain and wants something better.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life interrupted – 7

It’s not been a great week. Dominic Cummings was not sacked for breaking lockdown in the UK, another unarmed black man was killed in the US and lest you think Australia is so much better, Rio Tinto blew up 46000 years of history. And that’s just a few things, not counting the thousands of people who are still getting sick and dying from a deadly virus.

I am unequal to the task of commenting on world events other than to say my heartaches at the news. I also feel a bit disheartened because I was desperately hoping for something better, which seems a bit silly when it’s clearly more broken than ever.

In my city of Melbourne, restrictions have begun to ease. While this is great for businesses, it’ll make very little difference to me. I’m still working from home and remain circumspect about going out. People are doing their best, but boy have we already forgotten about our physical distancing practices.

Working from home remains hard – the flexibility is great but the mechanics of doing the work I do is better suited to an office. My team is working on a major project and I’m worried that we are going to miss something vital because of the difficulties working from home creates.

The sector I work in is in for a rough few years. The government actively cut us out of Jobkeeper, though there are some deep seated issues that even payments of this kind would not have addressed.

I have been attending a lot of union meetings lately, both official and not so much. The National Tertiary Education Union negotiated the National Jobs Protection Framework with Vice Chancellors and let’s just say it’s been an unmitigated disaster. Universities have refused to sign up and members of unions across the country have voted against the framework.

As a newish union member a lot of what happens at meetings goes right over my head. I have absolutely no idea what standing orders are and the first meeting I ever went to was just a lot of people (virtually) shouting at each other about conducting the meeting properly. I left early because it did not feel like it was my world.

I’ve persisted in going along because friends have been heavily involved in a grass roots campaign against the NJPF and I wanted to support them. While meetings have been fractious and I still mostly have no idea what’s going on, they have also been fascinating. From an objective standpoint watching the political machinations from both sides has been riveting.

At a meeting last week, a quorum of members overwhelmingly rejected the NJPF. Under union rules this should have been a binding decision. Despite this, the national executive is pressing ahead with another vote anyway, because you should totally keep asking the question if you don’t like the answer you got first time.

It’s quite alarming that they would take this path given their stated aims is to be a voice for members. Indeed it feels that they are just like all the other organisations that do whatever they want when it’s convenient to them, which is bitterly disappointing and not what I expected when I paid my (rather expensive) membership fees. For this reason, I am already considering resigning my membership.

I’ve been intending to write about libraries, but I find myself with almost nothing to say that has not already been said by others. Except that I have decided to not renew my membership to ALIA this year, for the exact same reasons I am reconsidering my union membership.

ALIA is a member based organisation that advocates and lobbies for libraries but not library workers, which seems a bit weird to me even though they are not a union. I have long been critical of them but it’s become even more apparent during the pandemic that they are an organisation that does not fit with what I want for my profession. 

Many libraries are reopening now and ALIA have put out a stack of guidelines about how to do this “safely”. Almost none of it mentions staff, outside considering shorter shifts and providing hand sanitiser.

This is simply not good enough.

Re-opening the library puts the emotional and physical health of library workers at risk, they essentially become frontline staff in a global pandemic. Under the circumstances, their safety and needs should be the first priority, not services or promoting the “library brand” – whatever the hell that is anyway.

I’m tired of the system winning and super rich people riding off into the sunset, while workers bear the costs. I don’t have the energy or will to continue support institutions that prop up the very broken status quo anymore and don’t stand up for their values.

I’m angry enough right now that I want to set the world on fire. And out of the ashes be part of making something new.