The government has softened some of the harshest aspects of legislation relating to international students at work. The recent Knight report, which criticised the mandatory cancellation of visas for students who work more than 20 hours in a week, clearly put some pressure on the government to clean up its treatment of foreign students.
The proposed changes, however, are completely insufficient, and still paint international students as little more than cash cows.
Retail bosses, crying poor over online competition, are now openly saying that driving down wages is their key to increasing profits.
The National Retail Association is proposing reducing the retail minimum wage by 10%, scrapping penalty rates for nights and Saturdays, reducing penalty rates on Sundays and cutting the minimum shift to one hour.
UNITE’s Brunswick Street campaign has won some real victories. UNITE organisers and volunteers visited stores along Brunswick Street on Saturday to let members and other workers know about the successes so far, and what they can do to win Award wages, penalty rates and safe conditions.
Workers on the street were impressed with the union work done by employees at San Churro, Hooked, Friends of Couture, Nique and 7-Eleven. Thanks to these workers’ efforts, weekend and evening penalty rates now seem within reach for others along the street. These examples prove that gains at work are won by joining UNITE, standing up to dodgy bosses and demanding your entitlements.
Employers have succeeded in their cynical attempt to reduce the minimum shift for young retail workers. Fair Work Australia this week ruled that the minimum three-hour shift be reduced to 1.5 hours.
Business leaders have touted this as a victory for both employers and workers. This could not be further from the truth. A casual worker on the lowest retail youth rates gets paid roughly $9.50/hour. A ‘full’ 1.5 hour shift for this young worker would barely bring in $14. To put this in context, a daily concession train ticket costs $5.80. It will cost a student almost half their day’s wage to get to and from work.
Workers at San Churro’s Brunswick Street store in Fitzroy are now being paid penalty rates for the first time. Their win came after they joined UNITE and decided to stand up for themselves.
But workers still owed thousands in back pay
A decision was made in the Melbourne Magistrates Court last week to fine the former operators of two 7-Eleven stores $150,000. At the same time Magistrate Kate Hawkins ordered Bosen to back-pay six workers close to $90,000. Unfortunately these workers will probably never see their money.
The scam was uncovered by UNITE who exposed the 7-Eleven franchise for paying as little as $9 per hour. The company Bosen Pty Ltd was ordered to pay $120,000 in penalties while the operators Hao Chen (Eddie) and Xue Jing (Jane) have been individually fined $20,000 and $10,000 respectively.
UNITE has launched the “Respect Workers Rights” campaign on and around Brunswick Street, Fitzroy!
We want to make sure employers are sticking to the law and workers are receiving their full entitlements.
UNITE has received many complaints from workers on and around Brunswick street about dodgy bosses not sticking to the law. Over the coming weeks we will be auditing employers to find out who is and isn’t paying the minimum wage and entitlements, and providing a safe and healthy workplace.
Employers who are sticking to the law will receive a ‘This workplace respects its workers rights’ sticker to display on their window. Employers who aren’t will be ‘named and shamed’ until they start doing the right thing!
If you can help in any way, please let us know. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us.
See you on Brunswick Street!
By Michael Quin. Published in the Melbourne Times Weekly, February 1st
Exploitative employers on Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, could be named and shamed in a union campaign to clean up the street’s reputation for underpaying staff.
Yarra councillor and UNITE retail workers union secretary Anthony Main said audits would be carried out this month to find out if employers were providing award wages, casual loading, overtime, payslips and health and safety standards.
UNITE is launching the new ‘Respect Workers Rights’ campaign, focusing on Brunswick Street, Fitzroy. Many workers in the fast food, retail and hospitality industries do not receive their full legal entitlements at work.
Are you planning on getting a casual job to make some extra cash over the holiday period? This is one of the busiest times of the year for the retail and fast food industries. Many shops put on extra staff to cover their increased work load.
It is common for bosses to try and rip young workers off during this period. Problems you may face at work include the underpayment of wages, not being given rest breaks, bullying and harassment or unsafe working conditions.
A recent audit of employers in Braeside, Coburg and Reservoir by the Fair Work Ombudsman has found that one third of employers are not complying with workplace laws.
The Fair Work Ombudsman is the government body that is supposed to be responsible for ensuring employers stick to workplace laws. Their recent audit found 35 businesses in these suburbs breaching the rules.
The Fair Work Ombudsman is continuing to investigate 7-Eleven convenience stores in Victoria after finding more than a third of 56 stores it audited had breached workplace laws.
Following a self-audit process rolled out with the co-operation of 7-Eleven’s corporate headquarters, the FWO between September 2009 and February 2010 audited the time and wage keeping records, pay slip details, and wage payments of 56 franchisees in Melbourne and Geelong.
UNITE, the fighting union for fast food and retail workers in Victoria, was appalled to read the “7-Eleven Stores Audit Campaign: Final Report” released today by the Fair Work Ombudsman. See: http://www.fwo.gov.au/Audits-and-campaigns/Documents/2010/7-Eleven-Store-Education-and-Audit-Campaign.pdf
This audit was conducted after UNITE waged a long campaign against the super-exploitation of international students in 7-Eleven stores. The main complaint UNITE has made is that there is a far reaching scam being orchestrated by 7-Eleven franchisees whereby they pay employees for only half the hours they work.
UNITE Organiser Mel Gregson was recently interviewed on 3CR’s Stick Together about the campaign for better wages and conditions for Bakers Delight workers.
Listen to the interview here: