July 2020 Guest Speaker, Rachel Burgess: Young Workers Centre

Rachel Burgess is the Young Workers Organiser at UnionsACT.

There were plans for a big wage-boost campaign based at the ANU, but of course the corona virus led to the university’s closure. The YWC reached out to JobKeeper activists and they have picked up the “No worker left behind” campaign. Videos were made of difficulties many workers were experiencing.

photo: Vintage Reds sausage sizzle for YWC, 2019

Rachel reported that there are two campaigns running, the first with ACT government involvement, a survey of under-25s, closing on 7 August, with 300 completed so far; and the second, Covid-19 health and safety training. The ACT government agreed to be involved with this campaign but have not moved so far. The AUWU has picked up the slack and will keep campaigning.

Rachel also spoke about the YWC’s Summer Patrol, canvassing hospitality workers etc. This turned out to be an even bigger problem than expected. Reports of employers not contributing to superannuation accounts are numerous; young workers had to approach the tax office for resolution, with the inevitable months of delay. This is wage theft.

The Summer Patrol takes a break in Garema Place (photo, UnionsACT)

Women are particularly taken advantage of; also migrants and international students who are less likely to report this kind of thing because of fears of being deported.

The meeting thanked Rachel for her report and indicated that the VR were appalled by how bad working conditions had become for young workers.

UnionsACT move on wage-theft crisis

UnionsACT are trialling a Young Workers Centre to help fight rampant wage-theft by dodgy employers. Young workers are particularly vulnerable to exploitation in this area. Broken workplace laws and under-funded regulators provide little protection.

The Young Workers Centre is a free service to support any young worker who has questions or concerns about their rights and safety at work.

Employers are required to abide by labour laws which include:

  • Payment of minimum wage and/or penalty rates;
  • Payment of superannuation;
  • Work health and safety standards;
  • Payment for all hours worked, including overtime;
  • Providing proper records including payslips.

For information, and for support if someone you know is being ripped off, go to: www.youngworkerscbr.org.au.

The Centre is calling for donations to help in its establishment.