A hastily organised union wage theft protest by the Young Workers Hub has been described as a pathetic publicity stunt.
Industrial advocate Miles Heffernan said the protest created the illusion that unions are actively fighting wage theft, ahead of a parliamentary inquiry.
“This was a pathetic publicity stunt to show show that local unions are doing something about wage theft,” he said.
“However, the truth is, they have been strangely absent from the restaurants, cafes and fast food outlets of Brisbane until now. ”
Union wage theft ‘blitz’ labelled ‘a pathetic publicity stunt’
The so-called Brisbane wage theft “blitz” involved just 15 people holding signs and chanting for an end to wage theft in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley restaurant and food precinct.
It is the first time Queensland unions have publicly highlighted the problem.
The protest coincides with the Young Workers Hub giving evidence to a parliamentary inquiry into wage theft.
“What a coincidence that just days before appearing at an inquiry that has heard the unions have not done enough to fight wage theft, this mob hits the streets with their posters and their bull horns and their outrage,” Mr Heffernan said.
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‘Blitz’ involved 15 people
The Young Workers Hub is the creation of the Queensland Council of Unions.
It organised the “blitz” on social media with Facebook posts calling for people to take part.
The protesters handed out leaflets, but did not name and shame any business for stealing wages.
Instead, they relied on statistics from the Fair Work Ombudsman, which found that 60 percent of Brisbane city restaurants and cafes failed to comply with workplace laws.
“The reason they didn’t target any particular business and accuse them of wage theft is because they don’t know of any,” Mr Heffernan said.
“For an organisation claiming that it fights for workers, this stunt was truly pathetic, and extremely cynical.”
Hospo Voice Union active and visible
Meanwhile, in Victoria the Hospo Voice union has named and shamed a number of cafes, restaurants and bars for wage theft.
The union’s protests have attracted mainstream media coverage, and led to Fair Work commencing investigations.
Mr Heffernan has made his own submission to the parliamentary inquiry calling on unions in the state to do more.
“Wage theft has been allowed to run rampant while unions have been asleep at the wheel,” he said.
“All of a sudden, when the government calls a public inquiry, they take to the streets with their ‘blitz’.”
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