Butchers, bakers the next targets for Workplace Ombudsman

Posted by Editorial on 16th January 2009

Butchers and bakers are the latest target of a campaign to stamp out exploitation of workers in South Australia.The Federal Workplace Ombudsman has written to almost 500 businesses alerting them to a crackdown on the food services industry.

Up to 100 employers will be randomly selected for audit by workplace inspectors to ensure staff are being properly paid.

Executive Director Michael Campbell said the decision to closely scrutinise butchers and bakers follows an increase in complaints. “One example we have recently uncovered involved a 19-year-old casual bakery assistant working 12-hour shifts, but with no casual loadings or penalty rates for overtime or shift work,” he reported.

Mr Campbell said the worker was genuinely concerned about putting his job security at risk if he complained and was reluctant to make a fuss. “Feedback from our inspectors in the field suggests that butchers and bakers are typically serviced by young workers and other vulnerable employees who find it difficult to negotiate or discuss their employment concerns for fear of retribution by the boss,” he suggested. “My very clear message to employers is that we take very seriously threats against any worker who wishes to make inquiries of the Workplace Ombudsman about their entitlements.”

Mr Campbell added that inspectors will be checking to ensure employers are complying with rates of pay, penalty loadings, allowances, meal breaks and have followed proper processes for approval and lodgement of workplace agreements.

The maximum penalty for a breach of the Workplace Relations Act is $33,000.