Melbourne IWW takes on restaurant wage thieves

In January this year, Melbourne’s IWW branch was contacted by Mathias, a German backpacker who had been underpaid while working at Hooks at the Yarra, a venue on the south bank of Melbourne’s Yarra river.

Mathias worked at Hooks as a casual hospitality employee for several weeks in December. The entire time he worked there, however, he was paid at a flat rate of $19.53 per hour, when the minimum wage for this work is $25.28 per hour during the week, and $30.33 per hour on Saturdays and Sundays. All told, in the three weeks he was employed there Mathias was robbed of $403.84.

After months of sending polite emails requesting payment and having them ignored, Mathias had had enough. He joined the IWW then, together with dozens of IWW members and supporters, organised rallies and pickets outside Hooks, shutting down business at peak hour on several occasions and costing the restaurant thousands of dollars.

After having this happen several times, Hooks offered to pay Mathias half of what they owed. While not a complete victory, it’s still a significant success and far more than would have been won if we’d done nothing. Wage theft has reached epidemic proportions in the Melbourne hospitality industry, and union action that shuts down business and inflicts huge losses on wage-thieving venues is the only way to fight this. If you’re owed wages and want to do something about it, or want to support others doing this, then join us or get in touch today!

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