Squeezing the workers

Minh Nguyen (Photo: Huon Hooke)

This is Minh Nguyen, who has delivered Australia Post parcels to me for 14 years. A refugee who came by boat following the Vietnam War, he visits me almost every day with wine samples. He does a terrific job. He’s a hard worker and he cares. If I’m away he’ll hang onto the parcels and deliver them when I get back. We have each other’s phone numbers so we can contact each other if we need to.

He is a sub-contractor for Australia Post and gets paid $1.35 (inc GST) per parcel, whether it’s a single bottle or a dozen, or a wide-screen TV, whether he has to carry it up several flights of steps or not.

He works a full day every day of the working week, and at peak times, weekends as well. It’s physical work, which no doubt keeps him fit and strong. But as a sub-contractor, he gets no superannuation, holiday pay or loadings, and is essentially self-employed. He has to finance his own van and pay all his own costs. Recently someone damaged his van and he had to rent a replacement for a couple of weeks, at his own cost.

This is one way Australia Post has made such a success of its parcel post business, while letterbox deliveries have declined. It’s no doubt part of the clever management that justified the CEO of Australia Post being paid $5.6 million last year.

Minh, who is a good sport, just laughs about the CEO’s salary and says there’s nothing we can do about it, so why worry.

Minh and his family have unreservedly made Australia their home. Except for his accent, he’s a true blue Aussie. But he is a little miffed that Australia Post no longer hosts the occasional barbecue for its workers, and the few perks the job used to have were axed some time ago, as part of cost-cutting.

It’s not as though clever management has given Australia Post the boost it’s received from the growing parcel post business. It’s online shopping.

This is the way of the modern world: squeeze the workers piddling amounts which surely add up to nothing substantial, while paying the bosses obscene salaries.

No surprise that the CEO suddenly resigned just after the salary story hit the headlines. He’s made his pile anyway and is no doubt laughing all the way to the bank. He’d been in the job seven years and must have made a squillion in that time.

But it’s people like Minh who make Australia what it is, a place to be proud of.

6 thoughts on “Squeezing the workers”

  1. David Boxall says:

    Re willingness to pay more for the courier service, you don’t have to pay more to Australia Post if the CEO (and other management) get less. I’m thinking wineries pay a lot more than $1.35 a case to get their wine delivered. It’s where that margin goes that’s the problem.

  2. John Quinn says:

    Sad this is what we’ve come to; top gear is 6th gear and bottom is stuck in first.

  3. Ross D says:

    I guess we pay the seller something more for the item for ‘free’ delivery and then we whinge when the couriers drop a card in the letter box for us to pick up at local Aus Post agent. You may be right about the ethics of highly paid CEOs but I’m not sure you would find many buyers putting up their hands to pay more for the courier service or sellers wanting to reduce their margins even if the benefits were guaranteed to flow on to the courier.

  4. Peter Forrestal says:

    This strikes a chord, Huon as my courier chap, young Kim from Hong Kong, has left last week after giving wonderful service for three years. He’s off to work in a bakery which gives some idea of where Aust Post fits in terms of the renumeration it offers couriers. There have been two ways in which Aust Post have been attempting to undercut its couriers. Firstly, they have been giving some smaller parcels (such as our important coffee bean delivery) to the postie, to save having to give them to the courier. The courier had been handling that for more than five years. I did protest to the postie and it has been restored to the courier. The other thing they have been doing is giving the occasional parcel to the large vans that comb the suburbs. That seems to have tapered off. Kim’s replacement lasted one day.

  5. Belinda Franks says:

    These sub contractors are really employees as they have no other work outside of Australia post . Therefore they should have entitlements paid in addition to their per parcel rate calculated on how much they earn per week.
    Yes, a painful accounting process but this is what occurs in a small business who employs casuals, their entitlements are built in to their hourly rate.
    Large business can seemly push the system harder to squeeze employees.

  6. JK says:

    Wonderful story. Pity it can’t get a wider audience and be printed in the SMH. However the SMH is shamefully devoid of interesting wine-industry-related stories now, unlike your newsletter!

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