Bike couriers delivering your meals, baristas serving your morning coffee, call centre operators helping you figure out your insurance.
Casual workers are in every industry, every workplace and they form an important part of our daily lives.
But what many of us may not realise is the insecurity casual workers face on a daily basis.
It’s not having any sick pay – if you get crook, that’s on you.
It’s knowing you have no holiday pay to look forward to as Christmas approaches.
It’s not knowing from week to week how many hours you’ll get or whether you can pay the bills if you lose a few shifts.
And too often, it’s not being paid what you are owed.
Australia’s 3.3 million casual workers, including contractors, labour hire and gig workers, commonly battle employers not providing fair pay or dodging their entitlements.
This is known as wage theft and it’s more common than you may know.
It may just be a small amount missing from their pay each week. So small in fact, that very few workers even notice. But over months and years, the missing money adds up to a much greater sum.
It essentially amounts to shonky employers knowingly underpaying their workers in order to make a profit.
In recent years, big-name employers such as 7-Eleven, Bunnings, Coles, McDonald’s and Woolworths were all forced to repay thousands of staff members after wage theft was uncovered at their workplaces.
For many casual workers, restrictions around COVID-19 have put them in an even more precarious position.
Businesses are doing it tougher and many have been forced to stand down or retrench workers.
Joining a union can help protect casual workers from unfair or unsafe working conditions by offering support when they suspect they are being underpaid or unfairly treated.
Australian Unions Support Centre is a free and easy-to-understand online tool for casual workers to find more information about their rights and entitlements, and how to seek help.
It gives confidential assistance on a wide range of workplace issues.
Author: Kate Jones