The United Services Union (USU) is taking action in the NSW Industrial Relations Commission (IRC) against Newcastle Council over an outrageous case of wage theft involving young casual workers employed at Newcastle City Hall.

USU organiser Luke Hutchison said that instead of being hired under the City of Newcastle Enterprise Agreement, up to 10 casual catering assistants were employed under the Civic Theatre Award which applies to the adjacent Council-owned premises.

“The Civic Theatre Award allows the Council to conveniently pay these catering assistants less, which is an outrageous example of wage theft and exploitation of young people,” Mr Hutchinson said.

“What’s worse, is that the chef hired to run catering operations at Newcastle City Hall is properly employed under the Council’s Enterprise Agreement.”

“If proof were needed that this arrangement is a wage rort by the Council, employing the boss under one arrangement and the assistants under another amounts to exploitation and an issue we will be putting to the Commission.”

Mr Hutchinson said to make matters worse, the Council has threatened to sack the workers and outsource catering arrangements if the USU took the matter to the IRC.

“The USU has negotiated appropriate pay and conditions for all Newcastle Council employees and we won’t be bullied into accepting anything less than wage justice for these young workers.”

“All the Council’s employees must be employed under the City of Newcastle Enterprise Agreement and its time the Council understood this shameless wage rort is unacceptable.”

Mr Hutchinson said the USU would be pushing to have all employees at the Civic Theatre brought under the Enterprise Agreement instead of utilising the outdated Entertainment and Broadcasting Industry – Live Theatre and Concert (State) Award (Civic Theatre Award).

“Enterprise Agreements were set up to modernise industrial relations and that’s what’s needed in this instance. Using an old, outdated Award to exploit workers won’t be tolerated by the USU and I suspect ratepayers would be similarly outraged that the Council is treating young workers in this way.”