Consumers can help end the culture of silence around the cheating of Australian workers

One of my formative experiences in the hospitality industry was of being exploited. 18 years old, fresh out of a small country town and studying at university in Brisbane, and to support myself (or, if I’m being honest, to defray the costs of my parents’ support), I got a job as a dish-pig and general hand at the local football club. I was paid less than the minimum wage – cash in hand, of course – and would have to front up to the office to collect that cash weekly from one of the club’s managers.

One week, while we were in the office, one of the managerial duo started berating me about my work ethic. “What we ask you to do isn’t hard work – it’s not like I’m asking you to suck my dick before I give you this money,” he said, in a way that made it plain to me that he would very much like me to do just that. I left the office with my meagre wages in hand, fuming with rage and humiliation.

In the 16 years since then, I haven’t encountered any other employers who have implied that they’d like me to perform fellatio on them but I have encountered plenty more who seem to believe that they can get away with other forms of exploitation. The most recent was a former employer who seemed to believe that he had no obligation to pay superannuation or to pay out my leave balance at the end of my employment. When I told this employer that I would approach the Fair Work Ombudsman and the Australian Taxation Office if the outstanding sums weren’t paid, he said, “Good luck with that,” and hung up on me.

The experience took me right back to the scene of that first manager’s office and brought back that hot mixture of anger, hurt and shame. But this time I knew that I wasn’t entirely powerless. Within the week I had contacted every former employee of his that I knew and had asked them to investigate their super balances with a view to taking the matter to the authorities. Not much later, I discovered that an ABC journalist was working on a news story about superannuation theft in the hospitality industry, so I contacted her with my experience. I agreed to go on record because by that point I had finally broken the spell of the Stockholm syndrome that many Australian hospitality workers feel about their profession. (The resulting news article and follow-up television coverage certainly changed the owner’s tune, and he has now appointed a new bookkeeper and accountant to make a plan for the payment of monies owed.)


Source: Chad Parkhill, The Guardian