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YWC

Young workers fight exploitation and turn the tide on flagging union membership

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By the Working Life Team

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

WAGE theft, overwork, and getting paid in pizza are just some of the real examples of injustices inflicted on young people in the workplace.

Now, the Victorian-based Young Workers Centre is helping to fight back against workplace exploitation.

Official statistic reveal 70 per cent  of young people have never been union members. And  only eight per cent now belong to a union.

This leaves many open to shonky workplace exploitation   by dodgy employers, the Workers Centre team warns.

But there is hope — statistics show many youngsters would join a union if they were better informed.

Centre staff (below) believe  real and important change only comes when young people learn how to make a difference themselves.

youth workers

“The Young Workers Centre is run for young people, by young people. We are connecting young people to trade unions and community organisations in order to address the massive gaps in education and legal assistance,” Victorian Trades Hall Council Secretary Luke Hilakari told Working Life.

And centre coordinator Keelia Fitzpatrick warned greedy employers their days are numbered: “We believe ending wage theft and systemic exploitation of young workers requires empowering them through education, and helping them develop skills to organise and win on the issues that matter to them.”

The centre’s education program is already a success.

Outreach organisers Claire Boland and Shirley Jackson are on the road speaking directly to hundreds of young Victorians since the launch of the young workers workplace rights curriculum earlier this year.

Centre staff believe it’s important to get the message out early.

“Young people need to know that hard-won entitlements such as the minimum wage, minimum shift times, and annual leave aren’t optional extras bosses can withhold” said Fitzpatrick.

The ability to take legal action against employers is another key function of the centre.

“Existing community legal services who provide workplace advice are often underfunded and cannot meet the demand for assistance,” said Fitzpatrick.

“By providing a place exclusively for workers under 30, the Young Workers Centre can ensure that their matters are seen to quickly and a fair outcome is delivered.”

Check out the Young Workers Centre website for more information.

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Working Life is a forum to share ideas and opinions about work and life, both light-hearted and serious. The opinions presented on Working Life are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent policies or views of the ACTU.

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