Young Worker Stories

As young workers, we all have our share of work stories. Whether it’s being underpaid, losing out on casual shifts or not being trained properly, chances are you’ll have experienced something like this. Individuals in these situations often consider that maybe their experience is unique and it is just unfortunate that they’ve ended up in a job with poor wages and conditions. We know however, that this is not the case and young people are one of the demographics most vulnerable to workplace exploitation. 

Young workers are often seen as dispensable. If you complain about your pay and working conditions as a casual, you could soon face the prospect of not receiving shifts as a punishment. We know that wage theft has been a huge issue and one of the greatest achievements to date for young workers in Queensland is putting wage theft on the map and highlighting how much young people are losing due to intentional underpayment every year. 

The next issue to deal with as young workers is insecure work and what this means for our future. 76% of workers aged 15 – 24 are in casual employment which is the most commonly identified form of insecure work. When we lose out on secure work, we lose our financial security and ability to plan. So that’s what we at the Young Workers Hub want to change. 

Are you a young worker and have a story of your own?  We’d love to hear from you. Click here.

 

The Young Workers Hub worked with young workers in 2018 to appear at the Queensland Parliamentary Inquiry into wage theft. One of those young workers was Lucas whose story probably sounds familiar to a lot of us!

At 24, Lucas was bartending at a Gold Coast restaurant, receiving a $20/hr flat rate and not getting any breaks or penalty rates for weekend work. After leaving the job and contacting the Fair Work Ombudsman, Lucas found out that he had been underpaid $500 a week.

Lucas knew the people he worked for well. Unfortunately, this is very common for young workers. Trust and loyalty to our bosses combined with inexperience in the workplace can sometimes mean it’s much easier to exploit younger people. In Lucas’ case, he expected that the people he worked for would be properly compensating him for the work he was doing. Even if you know your boss well, it always pays to check your payslip against the award or your enterprise agreement.

Lucas’ story appeared alongside others in this article on Buzzfeed.

Lucas, 24 – Gold Coast

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I skipped a few meals a week because I needed to save money because I wasn’t getting paid enough. 

After searching for months, 18 year old Andreas was thrilled to land a job. He was employed as a food and beverage attendant at a restaurant in Sunnybank. Initially, Andreas signed a contract which stated that he would be earning $18/ hour. After his first week at work, Andreas was only given the equivalent of $10/hour cash in hand. This is well below the minimum wage that Andreas should have been receiving but after raising the issue with his manager, he stopped asking for fear of losing the job that took so long to get in the first place.

The other people working at the restaurant were also being grossly underpaid but “accepted the way it is because if they complain…they might lose their job.” 

This is something young people have most likely experienced throughout their short working lives. When it has taken so long to secure work the prospect of being seen as a ‘troublesome’ employee by questioning wages and conditions prevents many young people from receiving what they’re legally entitled to. Andreas came to the Young Workers Hub for assistance and together with some other young workers spoke to Triple J Hack.

Andreas, 18 – Gold Coast 

 

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I am part of young family in Cairns, both my partner and I are in our early 20s with a young son. Being a casual was one of the most stressful experiences of my life. My child was about to turn one and I only had casual work on offer. When I couldn’t work hours I just lost out and I was terrified that I would lose my job. I had to go to work while my partner and son were still in hospital and needed me.

Young workers often lack the finance, confidence and experience to challenge unfair work conditions. Basic guaranteed conditions like sick leave and some basic job and employment protections are essential for young workers and young families especially.
Aaron – Cairns