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Issue #1903      February 17, 2020

Grill’d Unhealthy Wages

Hospitality and wage theft appear to go hand in hand. The hospitality industry is notorious for overworking their staff, not paying penalty rates, and underpaying their staff.

Image: Hospo Voice

Hospo Voice, the union for hospitality workers in Victoria that is amalgamated with United Workers Union, has been running several campaigns against wage theft. If you visit their website, you will see a list of campaigns all centred around one thing – wage theft.

Some of their campaigns hit the news – the most recent being the dispute with Crown over the celebrity Chef Heston’s restaurant working the staff up to ninety hours a week and then stealing $4.5 million in wages. Crown is trying to avoid accountability by kicking Dinner By Heston out of Crown and claiming that the restaurant was merely a tenant (a tenant that pays one dollar per year in rent – the dream!). This is a ridiculous claim since the workers at the restaurant were hired through Crown, and if Dinner By Heston is evicted, then many could lose their jobs.

The burger chain, Grill’d is also currently in a dispute with Hospo Voice over their enterprise agreement. On the 5th February there was a speak-out rally in Flinders Lane in Melbourne against Grill’d’s current work conditions. Many of the claims coming from the workers are based on the Award, and still Grill’d management is trying to either reject outright or bargaining with the union.

The claims from the union are around the unfair “traineeships” that form an excuse to underpay staff; wages and conditions such as a base rate that hasn’t been raised in the past four years; union rights such as Grill’d putting new workers in contact with union delegates upon request; additional leave such as paid first aid training, domestic violence leave and gender transitioning leave; and dispute resolution in which workers have requested Grill’d management to follow Fair Work’s resolution clause or for Fair Work to arbitrate Enterprise Agreement (EA) negotiations.

Grill’d workers state that the current proposals for their EA would not be accepted in any other industry, and it is clear that Grill’d are just bullying young workers who may not know their labour rights.

Delegates Patrick Finlay and Mitch Both have found that organising workers in Grill’d has been difficult because of the nature of the industry, but that there has been overwhelming interest in unionising amongst Grill’d workers nationwide.

Patrick said that a part of the success in organising workers has been due to the trust between work mates and by introducing them to the campaign first, and then encouraging union membership. The two delegates were able to successfully organise at the grassroots before formally unionising under Hospo Voice, which then strengthened their struggle further.

Grill’d management has met with Hospo voice members three times to negotiate the EA, but currently only one clause has passed – the cashing out of annual leave as stated in the Award. Grill’d are stubbornly holding their position, and according to the delegate Patrick, it is unlikely negotiations will go much further. When this point is reached, he says it will be up to their members to decide whether to settle on the final agreement or to keep fighting and vote “no.”

In order to help Grill’d workers in their struggle, Patrick says the best thing to do is to show up to speak-outs, rallies, and organise actions of our own – as other unions, Victoria Trades Hall and Unions ACT have done. He said that this support is what forced Grill’d to come to the bargaining table in the first place. He finally asks the community to “vote with your dollars” and avoid eating at Grill’d at least until the dispute is over.

Next article – Onelink workers strike

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