Young workers fall victim


By Renee Bogatko, Image Credit – Katarzyna Bialasiewicz/

Having “a rough day at work” now has a whole new meaning..

A worrying number of young Canberra workers have been bullied or harassed on the job, according to UnionsACT.

Research into the experiences of workers aged 15 to 25 shows half of all young workers have worked in unsafe workplaces.

In one case, a 21-year-old reported “one instance where the cafe had a faulty power point back of house and one young worker got zapped, so the bosses tried to comfort her and be super nice obviously so that she wouldn’t fill in an incident report.”

In another case, a 24-year-old said “when I had my first job at 14 and 9 months, I worked a lot in the back docks of the retail store. I often cut my hand on rusty nails, old staples, and metal trolleys, and would fall and hurt myself occasionally due to lots of rubbish on the ground.”

In other concerning findings, 70% of young workers had experienced bullying or harassment while at work.

Image Credit - UnionsACT

 “I was never allowed to question incorrect pays shifts or I would get in trouble from management for causing issues in the workplace.” Aged 21

“Had $0.10c/hour deducted for asking why I was being underpaid.” Aged 18

“Worked with a verbally abusive man who got in a few physical fights with other male employees. He was good at his job so he was never fired.” Aged 23

The findings also showed young women reported high levels of experiencing sexual harassment.

I was threatened with rape by an anonymous note at work.

- Aged 21

“When I worked for an upper class restaurant I was sexually assaulted a number of times. This was molestation, not rape, but I note that after I complained to my supervisor after the fifth time it happened, there were no repercussion for him, and I had to continue to work with him and deal with his touching and comments. One of my male co-workers eventually spoke to him, and he left me alone. This went on for about 2 months.” Aged 24

“My manager called me fat (I was severely underweight) and made sexist comments constantly to female staff - but was really ‘buds’ with the male staff.” Aged 21

Findings were particularly concerning for those under 18..

Image Credit - UnionsACT

“My boss at the pizza place was really horrible to me in every shift and then fired me for no reason.” Aged 16

An older and higher ranking employee and Hogs Breath constantly was belittling me, giving me looks that made me feel very uncomfortable and would often ask if I was a retard or stupid. Some nights I would come home in tears. My decision to leave the job was largely impacted by her behaviour.

- Aged 16

UnionsACT said much needs to be done to improve work life for young Canberrans, including improved awareness of workplace safety, increased penalties for workplace health and safety breaches, strengthened rights for young workers and better safety requirements for trainees and apprentices.

 “It is unacceptable for employers of young people to put them in unsafe conditions or to break workplace safety laws,” UnionsACT Secretary Alex White said.

“It is even more unacceptable that some employers treat young workers as easy targets for exploitation.”