JLU: Junior Lawyers' Union

Asserting the rights of junior lawyers, who have much more power than they realise.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Interim response received from OWS

The JLU today received a response to its letter to the Office of Workplace Services (OWS).

In a telephone call, a representative from the OWS advised the JLU that the matter had been forwarded to the OWS' legal department in Canberra and that a formal response should be expected in approximately a week.

Unofficially, the OWS representative admitted that the OWS was unlikely to provide any guidance as to the meaning of "reasonable additional hours", as the 38 hour week provision remains untested in the courts. The JLU countered that, if the OWS intends to enforce the provision, it must have some idea as to how many additional hours it considers "unreasonable". However, the OWS staff member responded that any such view would be formed on a case by case basis, following specific complaints raised with the OWS. All such complaints, she added, would be taken seriously and raised with the relevant parties.

This presents a catch-22 situation. Junior lawyers find themselves required to work unreasonably long hours - with each month's payslip containing the fiction that they have worked 37 hour weeks. The law firm culture of silence and acquiescence prevents junior lawyers resisting or objecting to their work/life imbalance. However, in order to break this culture of overwork, junior lawyers would need to lodge formal objections with the OWS. Is anyone willing to lodge such an objection? Not so long as the unspoken pressure to just "bend over and take it" persists.

The JLU looks forward to receiving the OWS' formal response but does not expect it to contain any salvation for junior lawyers who have never seen the inside of their residences in daylight.


Post a Comment

<< Home