What is ‘roster justice’ and why are we fighting for it?

Published: 04/11/2022
Category: Working life
Published: 04/11/2022
Category: Working life

Ever had to drop everything after your boss calls you asking if you can come into work on your day off? Perhaps you’ve had the opposite problem – finding out at the last minute that you won’t be getting enough shifts to pay your bills the following week.  

If you can relate to any of these scenarios, you’re not alone. In fact, you’re one of almost a quarter of Australia’s workforce who are employed on a casual basis, bound to an often-unfair rostering system. 

Most of us at one time or another have had our work and personal lives dictated by rosters – precarious, late notice, ever-changing rosters. The consequences of working under arbitrary rosters can be harsh for many workers, whose life plans and finances are at the whim of an unpredictable and unfair schedule.  

This puts a particular strain on working parents, for example, who require stable and predictable work patterns in order to also attend to their childcare responsibilities. 

It also exacerbates a pre-existing problem for insecure workers: the unpredictability of the work means they are already living life in limbo.  

If you’re trying to keep as much of your schedule free as possible so you can pick up a shift when your boss calls last minute, that doesn’t bode well for your social life or family commitments. 

It becomes almost impossible to commit to family or social events or form longer term relationships due to work-related uncertainty. 

Where this intersects with roster changes is fear: fear from workers that if they reject a last-minute shift or ask for more input into planning the work week that they will be penalised. Roster control is yet another mechanism sometimes used by unscrupulous bosses to instil fear in their employees. 

Union members at Apple call for rosters with a good work-life balance

Unions are proposing a solution to these issues with what we’re calling ‘roster justice’. The fight for fairer rosters is at the core of the powerful negotiations coordinated by unionised Apple workers around the country. This story has made waves through the media ever since employees at Apple used their collective power to resist pushes by the tech giant to rush through a non-union backed Agreement. 

One of the key battles Apple workers are fighting for is to have more say over their rosters – advocating for a system that gives employees (especially those with caring responsibilities) set days off. 

The good news is that some of our lawmakers are taking these concerns seriously, with Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke embracing a call to amend legislation to guarantee predictable and fair rosters

The concept of ‘roster justice’ has garnered attention in Federal Parliament following a recent Senate inquiry into paid carers. However, unions have had this on their minds for far longer. 

The Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA) – who have successfully organised thousands of Apple employees – are to thank for taking this issue all the way to the top.  

Without the collective action and persistent momentum gained by the SDA members, it’s doubtful as to whether an issue as simple as roster justice would see the light of day in Canberra. 

Have questions about a roster change?

If you don’t agree with or are unhappy with a new roster, contact your union early to discuss the issue before you sign off on it.  

Once you agree to a roster change it is hard to reverse so make your views known early and if you do not accept the change make sure you say so. 

Workplace issues like rosters can be tricky to navigate. That’s why it helps to have a source of information you can trust.  

Whether you have tough questions you need answering or you’re ready to take action, your union is the first source of information about your wages and working rights. This is what we do – day in, day out – so you can trust your union to give you the right information at the right time. 

Know your rights at work

What is ‘roster justice’ and why are we fighting for it?

What is ‘roster justice’ and why are we fighting for it?