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Angela 

I am a cleaner and I work for a large contractor. I have been working for the same employer for over six years. I love my job, but things have been hard. 

I must know the terms of my agreement well because my employer seems to forget their obligations under our Enterprise Agreement. 

I have been underpaid, denied overtime rates and it’s been left up to me to have to chase things up. It is not easy to raise these issues and I worried about losing my job every time that I had to ask for what is my minimum entitlements. 

Recently the Queensland government made wage theft a crime and this bill would greatly reduce those protections. Under this bill my employer could steal from me and I would have to prove their intent. 

Even with a conviction the penalty would be reduced from 10 years in prison to only four years. How is this fair especially when if the situation were reversed and I stole from my employer, I could be imprisoned for 10 years. 

Some have said that this bill will create more jobs. I have zero faith in that being the case. In my workplace there are plenty of jobs and it’s not because people do not want or need these jobs, we all know the job market is tight right now. 

My employer uses understaffing to reduce cost and increase profit. The understaffing is not even hidden from us, we get to see the gaps on the roster every day. 

The contract obligations still need to be filled, so we work harder to get this done. We are not given extra time and many of us have experienced injuries due to the increased workload and pressure. 

This kind of thing does not just happen at my worksite or in my service line. I have spoken with many who have experienced the same and our company provides services across the country. 

Some of us have tried to address concerns about understaffing and safety and this generally results in hostile treatment from our line managers and still no change. 

We tried to elect a Workplace Health and Safety Rep to assist us with these issues. Our boss just appointed one who is too scared to question them. We raised this again and asked to hold an election which is our right. 

Our boss just told us we had already voted, he said this to our face as if we had just forgotten. Completely comfortable with speaking an outright lie because who can risk their job to challenge the boss. 

I work as safely as I can while feeling the pressure to perform under increased workload. Despite my conscious effort to be safe, I have experienced several injuries and been on WorkCover. 

I returned to work recently only to be stood down and required to have my fitness for work assessed.

 

Christine 

I’m a cleaner and I work for a large contractor. 

I have four children and a partner in my house with only one income. Right now, we are barely keeping our heads above water. 

COVID-19 pushed us into a state of uncertainty, we were pushed to the brink and were left wondering whether we were still going to have jobs. 

Workers like me continued to turn up for work during this pandemic. I worried about my safety and the safety of my family, but I needed to keep my job. 

Workers like me kept our economy from totally collapsing and we did this by spending what little money we had to help keep local businesses open and others in their jobs. 

We did not squirrel our limited money away, we trusted in the system and did our bit to help others. 

In return the government has put forward this bill that will destroy job security. If my job security were to go and I was to lose my job or take a pay cut, life would become harder than it already is. 

Things that most would call a necessity would have to be cut so that I could buy food and keep a roof over my children’s head. It is already hard enough to plan for the future and not have to live week to week. 

Job security used to mean that the boss valued their workers and would help you and make sure that you and your family were safe and well looked after, those days are gone. 

Now, it is all about the bottom line and how big companies can make themselves bigger, richer, and more powerful. 

There will always be bad bosses, we do not need to make it easier for them to cut wages and change the limited working conditions we currently have. 

If this is the way of the future, the next generation will have a great battle on their hands. 

I don’t want that for my future or the future of my children. 

That is why I asked the senators to vote this bill down.

 

George 

My friends call me Geo. I am a groundsman and I work for a large contractor that manages property services for other major companies and the government. 

We are currently in negotiations with our employer and I am one of the bargaining reps at the table. 

Our employer has not been bargaining in good faith, in fact they spent several months ignoring us all together. 

The cost of living continues to rise, and our wage increase is put on hold while our employer uses stall tactics to wear us down. Every day this is dragged out we “the workers” are losing money and we have no commitment to backpay. 

We are not asking for the world either, but the offers coming our way do not recognise the hard work we put in to make the mega profits that this company is making. 

Our employment is based on fixed term contracts, we could lose our jobs every time that contract goes out for tender. And we have no right to redundancies either. 

The quickest way to trim fat and remain competitive is to cut the wages and conditions from workers. It is a race to the bottom for workers and mega profits for companies. 

Instead of job security we were offered sympathies. How are we supposed to have any dignity in our jobs when we are treated with no empathy or respect? 

There was a time when business valued workers and treated us with respect. Family values were important, and people were able to buy a house and enjoy their down time. 

This bill intends to weaken the protections of the BOOT test and we are already struggling to get a fair go. 

You could not possibly expect a company like this one to do the right thing, especially when you are ripping away what little protections we still have. 

Giving bosses more power disguised as flexibility will not generate economic growth or create more jobs. 

It will only leave us fighting over the scraps of insecure jobs and underemployment. 

Therefore, I must insist that this bill is voted down. 

 

Rylee

I am 18 years old and my working life has been relatively short. Like most young people I took a part time job with a fast-food chain while still in school, I had a permanent contract and regular hours. 

I started to raise some safety concerns and my employer tried to bully me into changing my employment status to casual. Even though the rates of pay were higher, my priority was to keep my job security with permanent employment, regular shifts and annual leave. 

Regardless, my employer unlawfully changed my employment status to casual. I knew I needed to contact my union for help. However, I was terrified of what might happen if I did. 

My union helped me to address the issue and my status was returned to permanent. Unfortunately, my workplace became even more hostile and I eventually had to leave. I now work in aged care whilst studying to become a nurse. 

The industry I work in is low paid and insecure. Many of the people I work with are underemployed and have to have more than one job. I am employed as a casual, however I work regular shifts every week and again I am seeking the security of permanent employment. 

Despite having a regular pattern of employment, I am being continually denied permanency. People of all ages in my workplace experience the same problems, the insecurity in our job means that we can not qualify for loans. My car is unreliable, and I am not in a position to buy another car or repair my car without a loan. 

The recent pandemic has highlighted a number of issues within the aged care sector; these issues are not new, and I believe part of the reason things have gotten so bad is due to the insecurity of employment fostering a culture of fear. 

Things are already hard enough and this bill will only hurt workers more. I have asked the Senators to do the responsible thing and vote this bill down in its entirety.

 

Jules

I’ve worked 16 years in the hospitality industry. I’ve worked in cafes, pubs, fine dining and clubs. From part time to full time, to casual. I’ve climbed the skills ladder from Kitchenhand – Chef de partie.

The only good job that I’ve had was when I was 22. I worked for a small business, a local pub. It had fair wages, paid by the hour, timesheets, payslips and penalties. Our employer looked after us and the business thrived – I wanted to stay longer. But to build a career as a chef – you have to keep on moving.

I went to one of the best restaurants in town owned by an illustrious “celebrity chef” – here I was taught the industry standard; 12-hour unpaid trial shifts, timesheets frowned upon, unpaid overtime, super never paid correctly if at all, no breaks, no penalties, and rostering that impinges on workplace safety.

Whenever I asked for my entitlements the typical response was “everyone is replaceable,” “do you want this job or not?”

The last straw for me was when I was sexually harassed – I left my dream job – it turned into my nightmare. For years, every hospitality job was the same.

After speaking with former colleagues, industry friends and union mates, we concluded it would seem that hospitality was never going to change.

So, I applied for university. I went from full time to casual whilst undertaking a Bachelors. At least my time would be respected, and I would be paid by the hour. Getting sick, however is a luxury something a casual can’t afford.

So, when I broke my hand, I wasn’t entitled to sick leave even though I had been there for 6 years. Centrelink took 6 months to pay me the benefit. If I didn’t have a support network – there would be no way, I would have been able to cover my rent and bills during this time.

This is what you have to choose between as a chef. Either you forfeit your self-respect and work for below the award or forfeit your rights, entitlements, and safety nets.

After decades of wage theft, my workmates and I came together, and we fought back. I got back $15,000 for only two years of work out of my career. That money has been life changing. It might not seem like much to you, but a safety net meant I could plan my future and make healthier choices for myself. Something that chefs rarely have the opportunity to do.

When Victoria introduced legislation criminalising wage theft, I cried. Finally, workers were going to have something solid and strong that couldn’t be manipulated or be met with wilful ignorance and poor excuses. We had hope.

But now, along comes this Bill and I’m sick to my stomach. This legislation is a kick in guts to workers like me who have already been brought to our hands and knees well before the pandemic arrived. We are tired and battle weary from decades of fighting for our basic rights and entitlements. We’ve suffered gaslighting, wage stagnation and exploitation and now you want to put forward a Bill that further entrenches these abuses.

On behalf of my fellow hospitality workers. How dare you.

My experiences are not unique. There are so many in the hospitality industry who undermine good businesses and who treat their staff as expendable and disposable. All this legislation does is make it easier for those businesses to continue on and increase their power over workers. All this legislation will do is ensure workers like me continue to be exploited, for wage thieves to get away with it and for our economy to take even longer to recover.

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