Younger workers ramp up campaign for full pay as FWC case gets underway

More than 41,000 younger retail workers across the country could receive pay increases of almost $2 an hour, if the campaign for 100% pay for 18-20 year old workers beginning in the Fair Work Commission today is successful.


The landmark Fair Work Commission hearing into altering the General Retail Award to ensure 20-year-old retail workers are paid the full adult wage, as the first step towards providing all workers aged 18 years and over with a fair wage, has the backing of the Federal Government.


National Secretary of the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA), the union behind the campaign, Joe de Bruyn said the time has come for the retail sector to grow up and start paying all workers a fair wage.  Currently, 18-20 year old workers are paid up to 30 per cent less than the full adult rate.


“Some retailers have been getting away with paying adults less than the full adult rate for too long,” Mr de Bruyn said.


“Workers deserve to be paid on their contribution to the workplace, not their age. In retail, by the time a worker has reached adulthood, they’ve often been in the industry for a number of years. They’re contributing 100 per cent, just like their 21-year-old co-workers.


“The excuses we’re seeing from some retailers for not paying younger workers fairly are disgraceful. In submissions to the Fair Work Commission it has been suggested that 18-20 year olds should be paid significantly less than their colleagues because they are unreliable, inexperienced and don’t deliver the same value to the workplace. We know that’s simply untrue and is offensive to the hardworking staff working to make the retail industry tick.


“We’re hopeful common sense will prevail and this failure in our General Retail Industry Award can be rectified swiftly for the benefit of hundreds of thousands of younger workers and their families.


“Fortunately many retailers have already seen the need to pay people for the work they do, rather their age. There are a number of enterprise agreements that do pay adult rates at 20, as first step towards adult rates at 18. We’re hopeful our General Retail Award can be rectified to reflect what’s already happening in the industry.”


“Contrary to what some in the retail industry are saying, there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that paying younger workers fairly will have any negative impact on employment at all. Nor will it result in businesses closing down. It’s scaremongering at its finest.


Advertising campaign launched


To coincide with the start of the Fair Work Commission hearings, the union will also launch an advertising campaign highlighting the injustice of retailers paying 18-20 year old workers less than the minimum adult wage.


The advertisement features Rachelle El Hage, an 18-year-old retail worker who, despite having over three years’ experience in the industry, gets paid 30 per cent less than her 21-year-old colleagues.


“After three years of experience I feel I’ve got a lot to offer a workplace, but because I’m still 18 I get paid less than other people who are doing exactly the same job,” Ms El Hage said. “Now that I’m 18 I can drive, vote and pay rent.  The law treats me like an adult, so I don’t see why my employer should be any different.”

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