Student Articles

Why Young People Still Need Unions

By Maddie Lucre

 Why Young People Still Need Unions

Unions – what are they? and why the hell should you – a young person – care?

As young people we often work hospitality and retail throughout our time at uni. The concept of unions can often feel like a far off or irrelevant concept. Union membership is often portrayed as being for industries such as mining or nursing or for old white men. But here is why it is important for young people to join their union.

1. Wage Theft

Wage theft is rampant in today’s working culture and especially in industries which are dominated by young unskilled workers. Wage theft is exactly what it says in the title- theft, and is a way for bosses to undercut workers entitlements and basic minimum award wages. Huge multimillion dollar companies like 7-Eleven, Dominos, Red Rooster are gaming the system and underpaying workers. For example, it is estimated that 7-Eleven stole around $110 million dollars of workers’ wages through underhanded and illegal practices of paying cash in hand. Wage theft happens at every level, from your local café to billion-dollar companies lining their already overflowing pockets.

  • 25% of international students get paid less than $12 an hour (ACTU, 2018)
  • 79% of hospitality employers in Victoria do not comply with the national award wages system from 2013-2016 (ACTU 2018)

2. Harassment

Young workers are often beholden to the whims of their bosses, bullying and harassment for workers can be an unfortunate reality. From customers to managers, a survey of hospitality workers nationwide found that 89% of young women working in hospitality have been sexually harassed at work. When you are being bullied and harassed at work it can often feel like you are powerless and have no one to turn to. This is where you can contact your union for industrial advice and help.

3. Casualisation

While working your way through your degree, the idea of having a casual job can feel great, it allows you to have the flexibility you need for your degree. But what does being a casual really mean? What are you entitled to and what aren’t you entitled to? One of the major issues that has arisen of late is the creation of the ‘permanent casual’, people who work the same hours every week and yet are classed as casual. The issue with that is if you call in sick or want to go away on holiday for a week you have no job guarantee, irrespective of the fact that you have been working at your job for 3 years. Technically you should be classified as part-time given that you work regularly and consistently the same hours every week.

4. Perks of part-time – brought to you by unions

The benefits of being part-time are more entitlements such as paid sick leave, guaranteed hours in your contract and annual leave. Unlike when you are a casual and are told at the last hour that your shift has been cancelled and you wonder how you will make rent this week? Part-time employees get guaranteed hours. Workers are now entitled to request to be made part-time after 12 months with an employer.  

To find out who your union is for your industry go to: