Closed for Public Holidays

Ekka-Public-Holidays
Photo of sideshow alley on Ekka Public Holiday by Toni Fish, flickr

As I enter the 14th year of not being anchored to a traditional working life, public holidays have become redundant. At best, they are an opportunity to catch up with family and friends still shackled to the Monday to Friday yoke. At worst, they are days when you get by without the dark chocolate you meant to pick up on the Thursday before Easter weekend.

What is the point of public holidays anyway? They mean little to a retired person, or someone unemployed, on disability, or those who just got bored with work and decided not to go in anymore. We need something more attuned to the Australian work ethic − like turning Tuesday’s Anzac Day, the one day of the year to reflect on the folly of war, into an unofficial four-day weekend.

Our Vanuatu-based research team has been working on a radical proposal. Imoverit Day is ideally suited to individuals who need to take a day off but have run out of sick leave. It is named after the Lithuanian linguist and Latin scholar, Ivan Moverit, whose doctorate ‘An analysis of the third-person singular perfect active subjunctive of moveō,’ is a fairly dry read.

Imoverit days can be taken by individuals at any time, without notice, replacing the seven paid national holidays. Yes, we know, some Federal unions already allow workers ‘personal’ time off (with strings attached). One supposes these award provisions would be axed if Imoverit Day gets past the Senate.

As the pronunciation suggests, Imoverit Day acts like the emergency escape valve on a compressed cylinder. When you’re really stressed, frustrated or angry, you just call the boss and say “Imoverit”.

If you happen to be unemployed or retired, just say the magic word to your spouse (assuming you have not been gazumped). You can get some idea of the mindset by browsing the twitter hashtag #imoverit (with a lower-case i) where people vent about petty things.

The invocation of ‘Imoverit’ immediately triggers one of your seven designated days, permission to disappear without sanction for 24 hours. This would necessitate some tweaking of industrial relations and family laws because, as implied, these individual holidays also absolve individuals of their paternal or maternal responsibilities.

Children who have reached the age of reason (7 or 8 according to canon law), will also be allowed to take Imoverit days. Parents would be allowed to set limits on what said children are allowed to do with their 24-hour escapades.

“Yes you can sleep over at Cory’s but no watching Andrew Bolt, right?”

A great day for loners to be alone

Just think of the benefits of taking a day off randomly. You can go to the supermarket and it won’t be crammed with people laying in for the Siege of Leningrad. Visit a popular national park picnic spot when (most) other people are at work − just you and the brush turkeys. Go to a movie in the middle of the week and have the cinema and the popcorn to yourself.

If you can convince your lover to take an Imoverit Day, laws specify you are not required to explain where you were or what you were doing. This would also be good for the hospitality industry.

Australians would very quickly ‘get’ the concept of Imoverit Day, cunningly planning ahead and parlaying ID’s into long weekends. If, after their unplugged rest day individuals still feel stressed, they can call in sick. We forecast a tremendous improvement in work-related stress. Imoverit Day would help HR teams identify workers who are under extreme stress.

“We’ve noticed you’d taken five ID’s and seven sick days in the last three months, Bob. Is there something going on at work or at home you’d like to tell us about?”

We predict a surge in Imoverit Day applications around the third Wednesday in August, an obscure local holiday. The Royal Queensland Show, also known as the Brisbane Exhibition, has in true Aussie fashion, become The Ekka. On People’s Day, tens of thousands cram on to free trains and buses to attend an over-rated carnival where tradition decrees you will either spread or pick up a late winter virus.

All Brisbane workers get a paid day off for the Ekka, unless they happen to be shift workers or in emergency services. Future generations will read how once, long ago, people were paid extra for working on public holidays (or Sundays). It was called time and a half or double time. Employers hated it, but workers were able to enjoy, albeit briefly, the joys of being paid something close to a living wage.

Public holidays often spill over into school holidays, so workers who plan ahead often parlay their annual leave into extended family holidays. Fine if you live in civilised countries like Austria, Portugal, Australia, Finland, Germany and the UK, which allow workers 28 to 35 days per year.

Australia is, nevertheless, a bit stingy with public holidays. With only seven national public holidays, we are in 10th place behind the likes of Austria, Portugal, Spain and Italy.

We predict Imoverit Day would spread swiftly to other countries, apart from the US. As The Telegraph (UK) reported in 2016, the US is the only advanced economy that does not guarantee workers paid annual leave. Official statistics suggest the average private-sector worker in the US receives 10 days of paid annual leave and six paid public holidays a year. Compare that with China though, where you get five days off after your first year with an employer. After 10 years they give you 10 days off. Yay.

Generous paid holidays, but for how long?

It has to be said that in Australia entitlements to paid leave and penalty rates for working on public holidays has been under attack. Even the concept of Labor Day (originally known as Eight Hour Day) has been diminished by successive Tory governments.

Not that we want to put thoughts in people’s heads, but taking an ID the Tuesday after May Day would give you a four day weekend to celebrate the people who fought so hard to bring us the eight-hour work day.

In Queensland, we’re getting May 1 back as Labor Day, conveniently landing this year on a Monday. A previous State government, which cannot be mentioned for fear it might rise again, shuffled May Day to October. Some States also hold Labor Day in October or March. Conspiracy theorists say this is a psychological ploy to dilute the strength of May Day as an international symbol of worker unity.

Our research chief Little Brother said he was astounded to find that, despite the paucity of workers’ rights in the US, the quest to free the serfs from vassalage started in Chicago in 1886 with the bloody “Haymarket affair”.

Little Brother, who reads Chomsky for recreation, says anyone taking an ID on May Day (a public holiday in 66 countries), should be paid double time. They will, however, be required to turn out for workers’ marches in whatever city or town they live in, wear a red beret, sing The Internationale and spend the rest of the day listening to the likes of 2Pac, Public Enemy, Ani Di Franco, Billy Bragg, Pete Seeger and Leon Rosselson.

There are worse ways to spend a day.

Some of you may have noticed I took a day off last week. Here’s an extra read from my website archives, April 2015, long before some of you were subscribers. http://bobwords.com.au/anzac-hard-tack/