Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Speaking of the strict Australian quarantine laws, some friends of mine alerted me to the existence of a show called "Border Security: Australia's Front Line." You can find playlists of it on youtube. Jeff and I have become addicted.

It's about the people who work in customs, quarantine, and immigration, and it's very interesting. We've learned a lot about what to do when we enter Australia. In particular, it seems that on the card you fill out before debarking the plane, you want to check "yes" on questions like "Do you have any food?" -- even if you don't think you have any -- because if it turns out that you do have some but didn't check that box, you face a fine of $220.

In the early seasons of the show, there is an immigration officer named Peter who seems to always get to the bottom of things and figure people out. (Of course, the whole thing is edited so naturally we never see any officers screw up!) I think if I get selected for questioning and it turns out to be Peter, I will just confess everything wrong that I've ever done ("I once blew a red light, and I should have gotten a ticket but I didn't!" "I teased my sister and made her cry!" etc.) and hope for the best.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Adventures in an Empty House

We are camping out in our house now. The movers came the week before last to pack everything up and get our belongings on the road ahead of us. It will take a minimum of two months for the 40-foot shipping container to make it to Australia, so we wanted to give it a head start. We're sleeping on mats and sleeping bags on the floor, and eating with plasticware.

The empty house is kind of sad -- but beautiful, because we have fixed it up for sale. We repaired a lot of things, had the interior and exterior repainted, had new flooring installed in the master bathroom and in the basement -- things that I now wish we had done years ago, because it is a much better house than we had been living in all these years, and we don't get to enjoy the benefits!

I took a bunch of food in to work yesterday, and I'm taking more today, for people to sort through and take. We can't take it with us, unfortunately, because of the strict quarantine laws in Australia.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Adventures in Labo(u)r Laws

When I received the offer for my new job, I looked through the packet of information with great interest. I was especially intrigued by one of the papers -- an information sheet (link is to pdf) from "Fair Work Australia" about my rights as an employee. It was a recursive info sheet -- one of my rights was "the right to receive this information sheet about your rights."

But reading it, several major points stood out in my mind. The first was all the rights that Australian workers have, rights that Americans only see as luxuries. For example, everyone receives four (4) weeks paid vacation! The lowest minimum-wage worker in Australia is entitled to more vacation than I receive as a highly compensated professional in the United States. Note that they are entitled to it; I receive three weeks off as a gesture of goodwill from my employer. (There is no vacation requirement in the US.)

Furthermore, Australian workers are entitled to up to ten days of paid leave for illness or caregiving for a family member. Again, no paid leave is required in the United States, which means that the three days per year that my employer gives me is above and beyond the call of duty. But it is somewhat humiliating to realize that a minimum wage worker in Australia has more than 3 times the cushion that I do in the event of accident or illness.*

Another entitlement is to be able to work out a flexible schedule with your employer to accommodate for caring for your child under school age or disabled child. Imagine trying to do that in the United States! Even my employer, which prides itself on (its perceived) flexibility, would be hard-pressed to do that.

It's like employers are supposed to think of you as a full person, not just a "work factory!" I think I'm going to really like being respected as a worker.

* This is not intended as a swipe at minimum-wage workers. My point is that the lowliest workers in the Australian labor ecosystem are entitled to more benefits than the highest workers in the American labor ecosystem receive from top employers. American workers deserve more rights!