Super-exploitation under new act
By Ian Powell
WELLINGTON — A scandal over the employment of a young worker at a takeaway food shop has demonstrated how vicious the Employment Contracts Act can be on young workers in isolated workplaces.
It was recently reported that an 18-year-old woman worker, Lee-Anne Manson, was employed by Uncle harry's Take-away, a Wellington fast food shop, on $1.98 an hour for a 72-hour week. According to the Services Workers Union, this is one of the worst cases of worker abuse recorded since the Employment Contracts Act became law on May 15.
The act abolishes awards, with existing awards automatically expiring on their normal expiry date (usually awards have a 12-month duration, and they could also continue in force for a further two years until renegotiated).
The Tearoom and Restaurant Workers Award, which covered takeaways, lapsed because employers used the new powers given to them by the act to avoid renegotiating a collective agreement. had the award continued in force, Manson's weekly wage would have been $550 net.
When offered the job, Manson was given the impression it would be 40 hours a week, but she ended up working 72 hours in disruptive split early morning and late evening shifts. Had the award not been repealed by the act, she would have been paid for the equivalent of about 100 hours of work, including penal rates and overtime.
In response to this exploitation, Manson left the job. Her case is being pursued by the Services Workers Union. However, the union faces the difficulty that this atrocious employer behaviour is now legally permissible.