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Young Workers Centre YWC
Campaign Wins
Young workers, union members and activists campaigned hard for years to stop dodgy bosses stealing wages - talking to the public on doorknocks, phonebanks and at street stalls about their stories of having their wages stolen. On June 22, 2020, the Victorian Parliament passed the Wage Theft Bill, which will come into force on 1 July 2021. Bosses found guilty of the crime of wage theft can now face hefty fines and jail time.  Penalties for this offence include: Fines of up to $991,320 for companies; Fines of up to $198,264 for individuals; and Up to 10 years jail for individuals. In the past three years nearly 1000 young workers have come to the Young Workers Centre saying they’ve had their wages stolen. Their bosses thought they could get away with stealing wages, superannuation and other entitlements because they thought they wouldn’t face significant fines or penalties. 
Former Honey Birdette workers Tori and Chanelle stood up against the company, creating a Megaphone petition, taking action on the streets of Melbourne, telling their stories and the stories of other workers. Despite the company's vision of "female positivity," Tori, Chanelle and other workers told us of sexual harassment from customers, with little to no response from management when reported, bullying from management as well as hours of unpaid overtime and the expectation that they'd work in this environment alone. They visited WorkSafe in 2016, handing over piles of documents related to these health and safety breaches occurring in store. WorkSafe investigated, conducting 14 visits to Honey Birdette stores in Victoria and issuing 14 Improvement Notices. Issues found included:🐝No safe manual handling training🐝No training or strategies for handling difficult or threatening customers🐝Blind spots in stores, where workers could be cornered by customers🐝No amenities, such as clean drinking water, provided for workers🐝Failure to provide a safe workplace🐝Playing music so loudly that staff in store could not be head if they needed to call for help. Some stores now provide bottled water for workers, and policies relating to safe manual handling procedures have been introduced. However – despite repeated requests from workers and from Worksafe, we can’t find any evidence to show that Honey Birdette has installed panic buttons or duress alarms in their stores. For a business where hundreds of former workers have spoken out about the abuse they suffered at the hands of customers, and where Worksafe found that over 60% of shifts are completed by a solo worker, this isn’t good enough. We must keep fighting for health and safety at work.
A Happy Ending: A group of young workers at Dymocks Books Chadstone have won back their jobs and JobKeeper payments after dobbing in their boss at (A now inactive website that was set up for workers to report abuses of the JobKeeper system)They reached out to us when their boss told them they were not eligible for JobKeeper and no longer had a job. These workers stood together to negotiate with the boss, with the backing of the union movement and Young Workers Centre, and won.
Tina came to Australia as part of a working holiday. During her 10 months at Shanghai Street Noodle Wizard, Tina worked late nights, weekends, and public holidays. She trusted her boss was being honest with her when she was dealing with an unfamiliar workplace in a language she was still learning. Instead, her boss took advantage of her. He lied about paying tax and super. He paid her a flat rate of between $12 and $14 per hour - and when she tried to take 10 days leave to visit her family at home in Taiwan, he sacked her. Tina went through Fair Work's mediation process - but Shanghai Street Noodle Wizard was only willing to pay back $3000, not even a quarter of what they owed Tina! This was unfair, and Tina and the Centre refused to accept this. That's when Tina went to the Federal Court - and the judge issued an order for Shanghai Street Noodle Wizard to pay her the full $20,000 she was owed within 21 days. An incredible result by standing firm!  
A group of young workers at Young Engineers Melbourne South were opted into the JobKeeper scheme by building power as a collective and reaching out to us at the Young Workers Centre.Initially their boss wanted them to sign a dodgy contract about receiving partial JobKeeper at a later date, but by standing together they were opted fairly into the scheme.
Aaron* was a second year landscaping apprentice, who had a number of scars and scabs on his face and hands due to medical issues. Aaron's supervisor accused him of drug use and verbally abused him in front of the rest of the work crew, culminating in a summary dismissal for "alleged drug use." As a result of his treatment, Aaron suffered serious mental health issues, and was unable to work for an extended period. He came to the Young Workers Centre, who were able to negotiate compensation reflecting Aaron's mental health injury. (*Name has been changed for privacy reasons.)
Jordan worked as a kitchen-hand and waiter for a year at a cafe in Melbourne's inner-east. During that time, he was paid as little as $16 an hour and received no penalty rates. With legal assistance from the Young Workers Centre, in 2018 he won back more than $8,000 from his former employer.
Bakers Delight workers at a regional Victorian store reached out to the Young Workers Centre and stood together to get the JobKeeper allowance they were entitled to.
Gavin* began as a first year apprentice doing air conditioning repairs. He was not paid Award rates or appropriate overtime rates throughout his apprenticeship. He also didn't consistently receive his annual leave loading or superannuation entitlements. Under Gavin's contract, he was also entitled to be reimbursed by his employer for his TAFE fees. He was not reimbursed for fees of approximately $3,000. Gavin came to the Young Workers Centre, who were able to negotiate a resolution of the full amount of wage theft and superannuation of over $8,000 for him. (*Name has been changed for privacy reasons.)