In late May over 25 members and supporters of the Sydney Solidarity Network turned out to support Josie, a worker in Marrickville, as she demanded backpay from her former employer.
Josie had worked for SaveMore, a company which owns a grocery store and a pharmacy in Marrickville. She worked a ‘trial shift’ and then a second shift there in January and February this year, but was not paid for either shift. Despite Josie repeatedly requesting payment, via letters, phone calls and enquiries through her job provider, SaveMore refused to pay for either shift.
So, after months of being ignored, Josie decided enough was enough. With the support of dozens of SydSol members and supporters, Josie confronted SaveMore’s owner, My Trang Nguyen, and presented a letter demanding what was legally hers – wages for the hours that she had worked. If SaveMore did not pay up within two weeks, we promised to return to leaflet passers-by and potential customers to let them know about SaveMore’s shady employment practices.
For several days afterwards SaveMore lied that Josie had never worked for them. Then they agreed that she had, but tried to talk her into accepting less than the minimum wage. Then, when it was clear that Josie wasn’t backing down, they paid up at the minimum wage for a casual pharmacy assistant of $22.48 per hour for four of the seven hours Josie had worked. Although not the full amount, it’s close enough that we’re satisfied and consider it a victory!
Illegal practices like wage-theft and below minimum wage payment are unfortunately very common in the inner-west. However, SydSol has shown that with a bit of organisation it’s possible to get what you’re owed! If you’re being ripped off, contact us today and let’s fight to win.
In November 2013, SydSol was contacted by a restaurant worker who had been seriously underpaid. Haruki* was an international student who had worked at one branch of a large restaurant chain* for nine months, and for the entire length of his employment was paid well below the minimum wage.
Under the Restaurant Industry Award, which sets the minimum wages for the industry, a casual cook such as Haruki should have been earning at least $21.86 per hour – his payslips, however, showed rates of $16 per hour. On Saturdays, the minimum rises to $26.24 per hour, but Haruki’s pay was only $17 per hour. And on Sundays he was paid at $18 per hour, a whopping $12.61 per hour below the minimum rate. All told, Haruki was cheated out of almost $4,500.
After discussing the matter with Haruki, SydSol agreed to support him in taking action to try to reclaim his lost wages. On 16 November, eight members and supporters of SydSol marched into the restaurant where he had worked. We presented a letter to the restaurant’s manager stating that unless full backpay was provided to their former staff member within 14 days, we would commence escalating protest action.
Less than two weeks later, Haruki was contacted by the managing director of the entire chain (not just the offending outlet). A meeting was organised at which Haruki and the managing director negotiated an outcome that was satisfactory to both.
* Names have been changed for privacy reasons
With less than 48 hours to go before their two-week deadline expired, Contact Centres Australia have caved in to our demands and paid Chris in full for the seven-hour training shift he undertook whilst employed there.
Chris took a second job at Contact Centres for several weeks in April this year. Whilst he received wages for almost all the hours he worked there, after quitting he was never paid for a full-day training shift he undertook. The law requires all employers to pay staff for all time spent working, including training shifts, but despite this Contact Centres simply refused to pay up.
For months Chris sent email after email asking why he had not been paid for all the hours he put in at CCA, but was completely ignored and never received a reply. Chris then turned up with 15 other members of SydSol, confronted management in their offices with a letter demanding payment, and threatened to organise protests outside their offices if payment was not received within 14 days – and then, after months of silence, Contact Centres rushed to pay up in a matter of days.
The message for any other employees anywhere else is clear: bosses – even massive employers such as Contact Centres with overseas offices and over 500 staff – are vulnerable to our actions and, with a bit of organisation, we can force them to give in to our demands. If you’re getting ripped off by your employer, contact SydSol, get organised and let’s fight to win!
Welcome to Sydney Solidarity Network! We are a new, all-volunteer group of workers, students and unemployed who want to come together to defend our rights through collective action.
We believe it is up to us to make our own solutions. We are launching this network because we know that thousands of us face unfair job conditions, and we believe that as community members we can successfully stand up together to powerful bosses when they treat us unjustly. As isolated individuals we have no power, but if we organise and stick together we can be a force to be reckoned with.
We are inspired by similar groups overseas and in Australia, who have used direct action tactics such as pickets, workplace organising and phone blasts to win specific demands and redress the wrongs inflicted upon us by employers, and we want to be able to do the same in Sydney. For an idea of the sort of victories that we want to win, have a look at his video below from the Seattle Solidarity Network below, or these two stories (1, 2) from UNITE, a small union for retail and hospitality workers in Melbourne.
We are only in our early stages, but if you’re experiencing problems at work contact us and let’s fight to win!