Young people are getting screwed over at work
A recent survey has suggested that young workers who were underpaid before the federal government's Work Choices legislation will now be even worse off. This won't be very surprising news to the majority of Australians.
The study, which was reported in the September 13 Sydney Morning Herald, was based on complaints made between 2002 and 2005 to the Young Workers Advisory Service in Queensland, mostly by young workers employed in casual and part-time jobs in retail and hospitality.
"Of 1200 workers who complained of unjust dismissal to the free advice line, 20 per cent were sacked for being sick, injured or for taking time off to respond to a family problem", the SMH reported.
According to the article the lead researcher, Queensland University's Paula McDonald, said many of the workers had taken just one sick day before they were sacked and one in five of those sacked for being sick had provided a medical certificate.
Young workers often do not know their rights, are less likely to be union members, and "employers have a greater sense of power" over them, McDonald said.
The SMH reported that "As well as cases of unpaid wages, a further 21 per cent of complaints involved young people who were not being paid under the correct award. When a kitchen hand complained about this, his boss allegedly replied: 'F—- the government, I pay my employees whatever I want.'
"A further 56 young people complained of cash-in-hand payment despite numerous requests for payslips. Dr McDonald said young people were reluctant to complain if it meant losing the job."
Young people are more likely to be in casual, precarious jobs and more easily intimidated by bosses. We are also more likely to be unskilled, so are considered more expendable.
Most young workers who start a new job are unaware of which union covers their area of work, and are often even unaware of what a union actually is. Employers usually don't inform us that we have the right to join a union without being discriminated against.
The new industrial relations laws can be changed. Last year, young workers and students in France stopped their government from introducing the First Job Contract (CPE). The proposed legislation would have given employers the right to fire young workers under the age of 26 at will and without justification during the first two years of a work contract. Repeated militant protests forced the government to back down.
We can follow the French example. We need to fight the Howard government's Work Choices and Labor leader Kevin Rudd's "Work Choices Lite".
Young workers and students in Resistance are involved in fighting Work Choices, through protests, public discussions, and distributing information against Work Choices and in favour of young workers' rights. Join us!