Many fast food outlets 'ripping off' young workers

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Many fast food outlets 'ripping off' young workers

Investigations in Victoria and WA have shown a worrying trend towards the exploitation of young workers in the fast food industry.

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Investigations in Victoria and WA have shown a worrying trend towards the exploitation of young workers in the fast food industry.

The investigations, by the Federal Workplace Ombudsman in Victoria, and the Department of Consumer and Employment Protection, Labour Relations Division in WA, followed a number of complaints of the mistreatment of young employees.

Five employers from the fast food industry faced the Perth Industrial Magistrate's Court yesterday for allegedly breaching the Children in Employment laws, contained in the Children and Community Services Act 2004.

Fined $29,500

Two of the employers concerned pleaded guilty and were fined a total of $29,500 by the Magistrate.

John Frankham Pty Ltd, which operates the McDonald's franchises in Busselton and Falcon, was fined $27,000 for employing 24 children under the age of 15 years in 88 shifts of work outside the hours restricted by the Act.

Child 13 worked after 10pm

Genesis Australasia (Victoria) Pty Ltd, which operates Pizza Hut Noranda, was fined $2,500 for employing a child aged 13 years, on 24 occasions after 10pm.

The Department's Compliance and Education Director, Bob Horstman said that under the Act employers in the fast food industry were not permitted to employ children aged between 13 and 15 years in shifts of work that start prior to 6am or finish after 10pm.

He said the actions of these employers, all of whom had received education from the Department over the previous 18 months, showed an apparent disregard for the law, which is designed to protect the welfare and safety of children in employment.

Letter of warning ignored

'The Department sent a letter of warning to these employers in June 2006 outlining the laws and giving them time to ensure their rostering of workers complied,' Horstman said. 'What is most concerning about this case is the fact that the employers made no effective effort to correct their actions.'

The prosecutions relating to the remaining three employers have been adjourned to 20 December 2007.

McDonald's franchises

Klepeach Nominees Pty Ltd, which operates the McDonalds franchises in Success and Spearwood, has been charged with employing 37 children under the age of 15 years in breach of the requirements of the CCS Act.

Kandoo Investments Pty Ltd, which operates the McDonalds franchises in Currambine, Joondalup and Mindarie, has been charged with employing 25 children under the age of 15 years in breach of the requirements of the CCS Act.

Matanza Pty Ltd, which operates Eagle Boys Karratha, has been charged with employing four children under the age of 13 years in breach of the requirements of the CCS Act.

Multiple complaints

'The investigations began after multiple complaints were made to the Department's Wageline service about the working conditions of child employees.' Horstman said.

In the southern Victorian centre of Warrnambool the Workplace Ombudsman has conducted an audit of employment practices by fast food and take away food businesses.

'This audit has so far recovered over $11,000 in underpaid entitlements to workers and found evidence to substantiate community information about "off the books employment",' said Ombudsman, Nicholas Wilson.

Serious issue

'The seriousness of this issue should not be underestimated. If employers do not keep appropriate records then it is very difficult to ensure that workers are being treated fairly and receiving appropriate payment for all hours worked as well as other entitlements such as annual leave, sick leave and superannuation.'

The Workplace Ombudsman's Executive Director of Field Operations, Bill Loizides advised that of the 16 businesses included in the audit:

  • Two have been found not to have breached workplace law.
  • Three were found to have committed minor breaches relating to pay slips or records. These breaches were not regarded as serious enough to warrant further action other than to require and monitor future compliance given that inquiries revealed that the employees of these businesses were being paid correctly.
  • Six were identified as requiring further detailed investigation.

'We have found employers using students and other young people who, because of their position and lack of choice, are unable to do anything other than accept the pay and conditions,' Loizides said.

The investigation is yet to be finalised with further interviews of employers and employees being conducted.

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