NEWS STORY: Young workers start campaign against the penalty rate cuts

Last night, about 70 young workers united in the Trade Hall Council for an emergency meeting against the penalty rate cuts. The purpose was to kick-off a campaign defending the penalty rates.

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Photo by Sofie Lerche

“It’s robbery and we have to stop it,” said Luke Hilakari, Secretary in the Victorian Trades Hall Council, about the cuts in his pep talk to engage the participants.

After Mr. Hilakari’s speech, the crowd divided into groups and started planning actions for the campaign.

A costly affair for working students

The cuts, The Fair Work Commission has just announced, mean workers in the fast-food, retail, and hospitality industries will take home up to $6000 less per year, according to the Australian Unions.

Particularly, working students will be effected. They often pay their costs of living by working on weekends and during holidays.

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Read more: Penalty rate cuts: Who gains, and who will be hit the hardest

Participants: Penalty rates pay our education

One of the meeting attendees was 23 years old, Bonnie Seymout. It was her first union visit, but her aggression regarding the penalty rate cuts made her join:

“While I was studying, I worked five years in retail late Saturdays and Sundays. The penalty rates helped me to afford going on exchange.”

She was not the only one, who has been frustrated. Another participant, Ross Leigh-Sewell, called the cuts “salami slicing of the welfare for people, who already do not earn much”. He is an administration worker, so he will not be effected by himself, but he fears that these penalty rate cuts are just the first ones:

“I am afraid it will start a flow-on effect, so it will make it easier to cut it to other groups,” he said.

Molly Willmott is a second-year-student and fears her generation will end up in poverty:

“It will give a lot of people in my age big troubles, because they cannot pay rent and bills. I fear some will be homeless and they will end up quitting their studies. Working on weekends is really important for young people like me.”

Read more: What penalty rate cuts mean for you

Next step

As the meeting progressed, each group planned an activity to undertake in the campaign and ended up presenting it to each other. All groups planned to do a blitz in which they will talk to other young people about the consequences of the cuts.

“If we complete this plan, we are going to talk to thousands of our peers. And this is just the start,” the union organiser, Nadia Montague, concluded as she was finishing the meeting.

See Young Worker’s Blitz schedule here.

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