Australia’s First Digital Union Is Here To Help Hospitality Workers Fight Wage Theft And Abuse

All for the price of a Netflix subscription.

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If you’ve ever worked in hospitality, you’ve likely had a brush (or five) with dodgy employers. Over the past few months in Melbourne alone, workers at popular establishments like Chin Chin, Barry cafe and Burger Buzz have all made pretty serious wage theft allegations against their bosses.

Now, there’s a new union that aims to help those workers end wage theft once and for all. It’s called Hospo Voice, and it’s calling itself Australia’s first digital union — all of its services are accessible online, for the price of a Netflix subscription.

The hope is that an affordable online union will actually be able to reach young people in tiny hospitality businesses like cafes and bars, and give them the tools to fight all kinds of workplace exploitation, from underpayment to sexual harassment and unfair dismissal.

For a monthly fee of $9.99, members will have access to online tools like Rate My Boss, which helps to warn others about problem bosses. Rate My Boss was actually rolled out back in December 2017, and has had more than 1500 reviews submitted so far.

Do you have a story of being illegally underpaid by your employer? Email [email protected]

They’ll also have access to Harassment Diary, which helps workers record instances of workplace harassment, and Record My Hours, which workers can use to track and prove the hours they’ve worked — very handy if you need to prove wage theft is going on. There are also helpful forums, where workers can get advice, clarification about their rights, and plan action to take against rogue employers.

Hospo Voice is a project of United Voice, one of Australia’s largest existing trade unions, and has the support of the Australian Council of Trade Unions & Victorian Trades Hall Council. At the moment Hospo Voice is only available to hospitality workers in Victoria, but there are hopes to roll it out nationally in the future.

After all, as United Voice’s Victorian secretary Jess Walsh put it, “employers in this industry have got away with murder because they know this industry is so young, transient and hard to organise. But the internet changed the game.”

“Hospo Voice is Australia’s first digital union. And it’s built for purpose. It’s an online space bringing workers in small workplaces together – to get educated, organised and active in campaigns to hold employers to account for how they treat their staff – like we saw at Chin Chin and Barry Cafe.” 

Posters advertising Hospo Voice’s launch party.

Hospo Voice launches today, but it already has 150 founding members, including staff and former staff at Barry cafe, Chin Chin, and other workplaces that really could’ve used a union like this in the past few months. Former Chin Chin bartender Sorcha Harrop was able to take her employer to court and have her unpaid wages finally paid with the support of her fellow workers, and she wants others to have that opportunity too.

“A lot of hospo workers just don’t know their rights, or that being a union member can put power in their hands,” she said.

“Hospo Voice is a game-changer. We need to stand up and organise. We need collective power. That’s the only way we can turn the tables on wage theft and sexual harassment in this industry.”

If you’re working in hospitality in Victoria, check out the Hospo Voice site here.