Monday, January 11, 2010

You Miners Get Paid Too Much

This story was first published in the 5 minute fiction column in Issue 74 of Shift Miner Magazine. I blogged about this story initially here.

WARNING: This piece contains dangerous levels of sarcasm and opinions that may offend some readers. (IM) Recommended for immature audiences only.

You Miners Get Paid Too Much
“I've got to say,” said Mike, “I don't think it's fair, what you miners get paid.”

Great, thought Paul, another one of them. He'd only just met Mike, who was married to one of his wife's new friends. Paul took a sip of his beer. “Don't worry about us mate,” he said. “We're all paid well above award rates.”

Mike turned away from the barbecue, and looked back at Paul. His forehead creased up as he frowned. “That's not what I meant,” he said. “I think you get paid too much.” He picked up his tongs and started to turn over the sausages on the grill, showing black, charred undersides.

“I check my payslip every month,” said Paul, keeping a straight face, “and I only ever get paid as much as what's in my contract. I've never been over-paid.”

The joke was lost on Mike, but that made it funnier, really. “I don't mean, like, they pay you more than your contract. I mean, what's in your contract isn't fair. You blokes get paid a ridiculous amount.”

“If my pay packet isn't unfair to me, then who is it unfair to?”

Mike focussed his attention on flipping steaks for a minute. He was frowning again. “It's unfair to the rest of us,” he said, “not working in the mines; getting a normal wage.”

“Where do you work now?” said Paul.

“I'm a boilermaker at Harvey's Engineering,” said Mike. He looked uncertain about this change in tack, but went along with it. “It's a steel fabrication workshop. We do mostly custom jobs.”

“You spend a lot of time driving to and from work; are your hours very long?”

Mike spoke slowly as he replied. “It's a bit under ten minutes from here. I do seven to three, Monday to Friday. I do overtime now and then.”

“Do they treat you fairly: pay your wages, give you reasonable time off, treat you like a person?”

Mike got defensive. “My boss is great. He pays better than most do around here. I've never had a problem working for 'im. Never.”

“Well Mike,” said Paul, using his hands as he spoke, “it sounds to me like you've got it made. Plenty of time to spend with your family. A job you like, where they treat you fair. They pay you enough for you to live in a great house in a great suburb.” He paused, then added softly, “So how is it that my pay packet is making you worse off?”

Mike was turning meat so fast now it was almost a blur. He kept his eyes on the barbecue, not looking at Paul. As soon as the sausages and steaks were all turned, he would mix up the onions on the plate for a bit, and then go back to flipping sausages. The flames of the barbecue flared with the fat that dripped down from the meat dropping back onto the grill. “Fair enough,” said Mike. “I like my life. I'm not complaining about my set-up here. I just think what you blokes working in the mines get paid is...”

“Unfair,” Paul finished for him. He rolled his eyes; he was tired of this conversation now. “Okay. Do you want to get paid a hundred, maybe even a hundred and twenty thousand a year?”

“Of course I do!”

“Well, if you want the pay, you take the job. You've got no mining experience, so you're better of trying to get a start with a contracting company – but you can apply anywhere you want. I know there's a project near Nebo where the contractor is screaming out for blokes. No need to uproot the wife and kids: you can keep the house here in Brissy. You'll fly into Mackay for the start of your tour, and get a bus out to site. With this mob you'll be doing ten days on - twelve hour shifts. You then fly out to Brisbane for your five days off with the family, and then it all starts again. Fair deal?”

“Are you nuts?” Mike turned away from the barby to face Paul again. “You want me to do boilermaking work for twelve hours in a single day, for ten days straight, sleeping in some donger camp in the desert, away from my wife and kids? You'd have to pay me a tad more than a hundred and twenty thousand bucks a year to do that.”

“So it really isn't fair what we miners get paid, is it?” said Paul. “That meat looks done, mate. Let's see if the girls are ready to eat.”