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Byron Shire
June 15, 2024

Employee exploitation and how to avoid it

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Boyd Kellner, Suffolk Park. 

Tales of Employee Expectation’ is a timely article on exploitation in this area if ever there was one.

We arrived here in mid 1980s, my partner went around the then quaint health food restaurants to enquire about work.

Even back then one owner said to her ‘if you don’t accept cash, I will get a 16-year-old for half that’.

Back then – before Byron was the go-to destination – market forces were used by business owners to exploit workers.

But we still have a surplus of labour, and some business owners take advantage.

This power dynamic goes to the core of a market based economy.

Agreed, there are some decent business owners.

But the common retort by some owners that ‘I can’t afford it’ ignores the fact by law these workers should be paid the official award rate, not coerced into negotiating a lesser rate.

It appears that some of these owners have not done their homework and factored in these contingencies.

Jane Laverty from the NSW Business Chamber claims that some cannot afford to open weekends because of having to pay penalty rates. I find that unbelievable, especially as Byron in particular is experiencing a boom in popularity and the place is generally a nightmare of traffic and pedestrian congestion.

The profit motive is a guiding principle for the majority of businesses and cutting corners is not beyond some of them.

Exploitation amongst working people is on the rise, with food franchises, Airbnb and Uber a few examples.

Everywhere you look, working people are struggling to survive, many with enormous mortgages, and work for many is casualised and insecure.

Under-employment is used as a means to assert power over a working person, which is a form of exploitation.

Knowing your rights is one thing, enforcing them is another, and many are too afraid to speak up for fear of being blacklisted.

Only strategic, collectivised action by these disaffected workers, with support and solidarity from other workers, will see a turnaround of this odious practice.

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