i caught up with a friend over the weekend, whom i hadn't seen in a while. the reason being that she's shifted up to auckland & is working in one of the top accounting firms there.
she started telling me about her workplace, and i'm truly appalled. she tells me that she has often been working until 10pm at night, and staying until 9pm is normal. this is the expectation of all employees. i asked her what would happen if she refused, and left work around 5.30pm. she said that the result would be that she would be allocated the most boring jobs that would give no satisfaction, and it would mean that she wouldn't be moving up within that organisation.
there is no doubt that this particular firm is getting at least 1.5 person's work out of 1 person, and that they are doing so deliberately. my friend says that staff turnover is high, but with the current recession, people are not able to leave so easily. and because it is so difficult to get a position in what is seen as a prestigious firm, these young people don't want to let that position go because of the fear of the negative effect on their career.
this pressure appears to be applied to new graduates, and of course the accounting workforce isn't unionised (not that i've seen, anyway). we have the institute of chartered accountants, but i've never ever heard of them fighting for the rights of junior staff to have decent work hours. it's not likely, given that the elected positions in the institute are mostly senior partners in accountancy firms.
at least these graduates are getting paid a better wage than, say, cleaners on contract & unlike cleaners, they know that if they stick it out, they'll be getting promoted. but that doesn't make this kind of exploitation right. these big firms are working in a competitive market, and the way they keep the price to the client down is by saving on labour costs.
i wish i could name the particular firm, but i don't want to get my friend in trouble and don't want to end up with any kind of legal action against myself. but really, the only way to deal with this kind of thing is by naming and shaming. and getting these young people to join a union.
in other news, my friend and hamilton city councillor daphne bell has just joined the blogoshpere. welcome daphne, and looking forward to your contribution.