Page 439 - Week 02 - Tuesday, 18 February 2020

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Zed Seselja is delivering. Both Alistair Coe and I feel proud to have played a role in this important development.

Young Workers Centre

MS CODY (Murrumbidgee) (3.55): I rise tonight because I would like to congratulate the Young Workers Centre and acknowledge the important work they do for our youth. The Young Workers Centre is an initiative of UnionsACT and is also funded by the ACT government through a service agreement. This is terrific because it enables the Young Workers Centre to provide specific services for free. The centre has been established to assist young people to put a stop to wage theft, exploitation and unsafe working conditions. Since its establishment the Young Workers Centre and its volunteers have done a fantastic job of educating, advising and facilitating programs for workers under 25 years of age. The information they provide is effectively combating the low awareness of rights in the workplace. According to research undertaken by UnionsACT:

… the prevalence of wage-theft has increased dramatically in recent times, with more than half of young workers reporting their wages were stolen in the last 12 months (up from 44% last year).

Young people under 25 are vulnerable to wage theft, workplace bullying and breaches of workplace safety.

Every worker deserves to be paid for the work they do and be safe where they work. A survey conducted in January 2019 by UnionsACT of workers ages between 14 and 25 found that almost half of young workers have been injured or hurt at work in the past 12 months. There are significant levels of under-reporting of workplace injuries and exploitation for young workers. Young workers have low levels of awareness of specific workplace rights but generally are aware that their rights and entitlements are not being met. Finally, over half of young workers struggle to pay medical bills due to low wages and insecure work. More than 60 per cent delay seeing a doctor at all. We are failing our young workers.

Wage theft rages on. In 2019 there was a major crisis for wage theft, and that is unacceptable. We hear of businesses that have been busted for wage theft, businesses or companies that we have all purchased stuff from at least once. Some of these are 7-Eleven, the Super Retail Group, Commonwealth Bank, Michael Hill Jewellers, Qantas, Subway, the Coffee Club, Crust Pizza, Sushi Bay, Sunglass Hut, Bunnings, Hero Sushi, Grill’d—and the list goes on and on. These are just some of the businesses that have been audited by the Fair Work Ombudsman, following multiple complaints of wage theft. Over 620 workers at Sunglass Hut collectively had $2.3 million in wages stolen from them. One incident saw an employee owed over $40,000. This needs to stop.

I strongly support the work our unions do and encourage the Young Workers Centre’s efforts. We need to be strong in the face of dodgy employers. Let us continue to fight for and stand up for our young workers.

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