… In the interview, the senior editors apologised that the money wouldn’t be great, that it was out of their control. I smiled and brushed it aside. I remember, shamefully, thinking that I would gladly do the job for free. The experience in itself seemed priceless. When they called to offer me the job, I gushed with gratitude. Here was the confirmation I needed that my efforts were paying off, that I’d got my foot—or at least a toe—in the door.
One day, about six months into my new job, a colleague and I sat outside eating lunch together in the dreary autumn chill and we started talking about money. She’d started at the same time as me, and she told me that her dad had recently asked her about our pay rate. It was a low, round figure. That immediately rang an alarm bell to him. My colleague had done some digging on the Fair Work Ombudsman website and discovered that, according to the duties of our role, our pay should have been significantly higher.
Once she spoke those words, a nagging doubt that had sat with me for months with no distinguishable form suddenly solidified into something real. I thought back to the editors’ apology about the low pay, to the round, non-indexed figure. I felt sick. Stupid.
In a flurry of research over the following weeks, my two colleagues and I schooled ourselves on Australian workplace laws. Despite having been in the workforce for nearly ten years, I was embarrassingly uninformed about my rights. I hadn’t even made a copy of my contract. I calculated the potential underpayment. It was galling—thousands of dollars. I had no idea how to even begin recouping it. I made several calls to the Fair Work Ombudsman, who confirmed my suspicions and encouraged me and my colleagues to meet with company management to try to resolve the issue. This corroboration should have been vindicating, but as soon as each call ended, its power dissolved. Everything was confirmed, but nothing was resolved.
Over the next two months, work became a source of dread. I was constantly running almost-late; I would forget to bring lunch. Sometimes I would linger in the bathroom and feel like never emerging. I felt used, as if some obvious joke had been played on me and it had taken me six months to figure it out. Sometimes, classmates would say how they wished for an opportunity like mine. I would smile, offer a non-committal answer.
But it was all good résumé material, right?
You can read the full essay in our 2019 edition of Antithesis Journal, which will be published later this year. Our 2019 edition is themed ‘Devotion’ and will feature original works from writers, academics and artists.
G.A. is a Melbourne-based writer and editor. She is a graduate of the University of Melbourne’s Master of Publishing and Communications degree. Her hobbies include making tea and then forgetting about it, loitering in bookstores and bushwalking.