Young Victorians will have greater access to industrial power, with a focus on safety, under a new initiative by the Victorian Trades Hall Council, funded by WorkSafe Victoria.
The new Young Workers Centre, launching on Wednesday, will connect young people experiencing workplace issues with aspiring young lawyers in need of industrial experience, empowering young people to defend themselves and their co-workers against exploitation of the kind recently exposed at 7-Eleven, Pizza Hut and on some Victorian farms.
The centre will address a clear deficit in support available for young workers. A snapshot analysis undertaken by the Young Workers Centre indicates that more than half of people seeking legal assistance with problems at work are being turned away due to a lack of dedicated, funded services.
Secretary of the Victorian Trades Hall Council Luke Hilakari said “As a continual progression of scandals demonstrate, young workers need support to enforce their rights at work. The Young Workers Centre will connect young workers with each other, and support them to campaign to build better and safer workplaces for young people.”
Keelia Fitzpatrick, Coordinator of the Young Workers Centre, said “The people who have come forward so far are just the tip of the iceberg as far as workplace exploitation of young people goes. We will provide young Victorians with the workplace rights and safety education, legal remedies, and campaigning tools for them to stamp out illegal employer behaviour”.
Kaylha Ho, a former worker at Covino Farms, will speak about her experience taking action against Covino Farms at the launch of the Young Workers Centre at Trades Hall on Wednesday night.
“When I came to Victoria on a Working Holiday Visa to earn money to send home, I thought I was coming to one of the best places to work in the world. I didn’t think workers were treated like that in Australia” said Ms Ho.
As a processing worker, Ms Ho witnessed the violence and harassment that was widespread across the workplace. She was also paid below minimum wage.
“I hope the Young Workers Centre will make sure this doesn’t happen to any other young person working anywhere” said Ms Ho.
The Centre will be officially opened by Minister for Finance and Multicultural Affairs The Hon. Robin Scott MP.
Launch of the Young Workers Centre
Wednesday 17 Feb, 5.30pm (speeches at 6pm)
Speakers: Minister for Finance and Multicultural Affairs Robin Scott
Kaylha Ho – former Farm worker
Colleen Chen – Interns Australia
Luke Hilakari – Victorian Trades Hall Council
Meeting Room 1, 54 Victoria St, Carlton
Keelia Fitzpatrick, Young Workers Centre Coordinator
Amy Fitzgerald, Young Workers Centre Communications Organiser