Guest essay by Eric Worrall
According to The Conversation, the lack of workers organisation in volunteer groups is preventing volunteers from receiving the pay and conditions they deserve.
The green gig economy: precarious workers are on the frontline of climate change fight
April 21, 2020 11.41pm AEST
Sango MahantyAssociate Professor, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University
Benjamin NeimarkSenior Lecturer, Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University
Politicians and business people are fond of making promises to plant thousands of trees to slow climate change. But who actually plants those trees, and who tends them as they grow?
The hard and dirty work of restoring ecosystems will be invaluable in coming decades, to soak up carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, ease the impact of storms and flooding and harbour embattled wildlife. But this work – where it currently exists – is carried out by people who are often poorly paid, or not compensated at all.
Most often, these aren’t recognised workers, but instead, volunteers. This is not only the case for conservation workers in rural areas of Madagascar and Cambodia, but also in cities where waste collectors and people who recycle electronic waste work in abject poverty.
The situation is more dire for those battling the natural disasters that are proliferating in the warming climate. The 2018 wildfire season in California was the deadliest in the state’s history, but much of the fire fighting relied on 2,000 prison inmates who earned just USD$1 a day.
During Australia’s “black summer” of 2019-20, Prime Minister Scott Morrison rejected calls for support payments to 195,000 volunteer firefighters because, in his words, “they want to be there”.
These workers lack the proper pay and protections of an organised workforce, yet their services are increasingly in demand. Collectively, they form an emerging “eco-precariat” that bears little resemblance to the labour movement that’s urgently needed to mitigate the climate and ecological crisis.
…Read more: https://theconversation.com/the-green-gig-economy-precarious-workers-are-on-the-frontline-of-climate-change-fight-133392
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has a point – volunteers are not there for money. Most of us have done at least some volunteer work in their lifetime. I never expect pay for my volunteer work.
I have a friend who is a senior volunteer firefighter, it is a big commitment which he takes very seriously. He saw action in the recent Aussie bushfires. But his day job he makes very good money as a freelance financial advisor, far more than he could make as a full time firefighter.
If “green gig” workers need more money, in my opinion the answer is simple; they should do a little less volunteering and spend more time making money. I’m grateful for their contribution as volunteers, but nobody expects them to mess up their own life through giving too much of their time to others.
Alternatively they could apply for a permanent job. A volunteer firefighter with a good track record would surely be head of the queue for any firefighter job openings, if they wanted to go full time, at least I hope that is the case.
If volunteers need any other ideas for how to improve their income, they could try talking to their fellow volunteers. You never know, one of their fellow volunteers might be a talented financial advisor.