Published: 02/11/2022
Category: On The Job
Published: 02/11/2022
Category: On The Job

For workers at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), the last decade has been punishing.

The endless hostility from conservative governments, cutbacks and shrinking budgets, and the rampant casualisation of jobs have made the broadcaster a tough place to work.

The election of the Albanese Government offered some hope that the worst was over and that the ABC could finally recover from the damage caused by a decade of attacks.

The reality is, the damage done to the ABC and its workers is profound, and it requires urgent and immediate action.

Last week, members of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) at ABC delivered around 850 personal messages to ABC management demanding a fair pay rise, improved pathways for career progression, and a review of the crushing workloads many staff face.

MEAA Media Director Cassie Derrick told On the Job that she read all 850 of the messages wrote to management and was struck by the degree of distress they contained.

“There was quite a bit of hopelessness in them, people just want to tell management that they actually don’t see a way forward unless things change,” Derrick said.

“It’s really clear that the people who work at the ABC care deeply about it, and they want it to run properly. They want the ABC to be doing everything it’s supposed to be doing for the Australian public.”

Derrick is adamant that a robust ABC is more vital than ever, and that if it is going to thrive it first needs to look after its staff.

“The ABC is so enormously important and is becoming more important by the day. Staff at the ABC are trying to do more with less, constantly,” she said.

Not only are staff under relentless pressure to meet the demands of management and audiences, like many other workers in Australia, they have had their pay pinched, according to Derrick.

“Over the last decade there was systemic wage theft throughout the whole place. The ABC bungled the payment of overtime buyout and they had to pay back millions of dollars to people.”

“The way that they’ve dealt with cuts is by sacking all of the experienced journalists on higher pay grades, and then rehiring positions on three or four pay grades lower,” she said.

What it means is that ABC staff…are operating way beyond their pay level, working hours way beyond what they’re actually engaged to do, and doing the workload of multiple people without any recognition or respect, or the capacity to be able to continue.

Cassie Derrick
MEAA Media Director

Cassie Derrick  -  MEAA Media Director

“What we’re seeing here is our members telling us: ‘We just can’t do it anymore.’”

The ABC’s employment model has become dependent on a ready and willing casualised workforce engaged on short term contracts – sometimes kept rolling for years on end.

MEAA members are pushing hard to end this cycle of uncertainty for workers.

ABC staff always put their audiences first, and as such, have been reluctant to take industrial action that might impact on the delivery of programs and content.

But with so many workers at breaking point, that might have to be the next course of action, according to Derrick.

“We’re currently in the process of moving towards protected action which is something we haven’t done at the ABC in a very long time,” she said.  

“The ABC has an integral role in Australian life, and Australians really care about the ABC.”

“Ours members want to improve their own working lives but they’re also want to see an ABC that operates as it should and as the public deserves,” Derrick said.

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Cover photo credit: Sam McGhee on Unsplash

Media workers tell the ABC it’s time for change

Media workers tell the ABC it’s time for change