February 15, 2021
So you’ve been at your job for a while and you love it. Your colleagues are awesome, you really get along with the customers and the shifts fit in with your life. But you’re realising that something isn’t quite right. Maybe you suspect you’re being underpaid or there’s a safety issue everyone seems to ignore. Maybe no one is getting weekend or public holiday rates.
So, what do you do? You don’t want to quit, you’ve finally found your groove. And you’re pretty new and feel powerless to change anything on your own. This, my friend, is when it’s time to consider collective action. Chances are, if you’re not being paid right, then no one is. It’s time to organise your colleagues and fight for your collective rights.
So where do you even start? Here’s how to inspire collective action in your hospo workplace.
Your first step is to see if you’ve got any colleagues who are thinking the same way as you are. You need to find your collective posse. But you don’t want to bail up your mate in the cool room when your boss could walk in at any second. Perhaps meet up with one or two colleagues out of hours or chat with them online.
According to Jess Browning, digital organiser at Hospo Voice, when you’re sounding out your colleagues, it’s important not to impose your own priorities on them.
“Instead, ask them which issues matter most to them… It’s important to keep in mind that the things that matter most to you might not be everyone’s priority, but together you can organise to fix a range of problems.”
Once you’ve got a small group, put together a list of issues in your workplace. Then have some casual chats with other staff members. Let them know your goal is to improve the workplace for everyone and ask them if they have any issues. As you continue organising your colleagues, start up a group chat online and introduce anyone who doesn’t know each other.
If you’ve got resistant colleagues, that’s totally normal. According to Jess, lots of people find the idea of standing up to their employer really scary.
“Empathise with them, but also ask them how they think things will change if workers don’t take action together.”
Remind them that not everyone needs to address the employer directly, but you need a decent cohort on board who will take further action if necessary.
Before you can fight for your rights, you need to be clear on what they are in the eyes of the law. Hospo Voice members can head to our Mobilise fact sheets to read up or ask our experts a question.
This is exactly what Lisa* did. She joined Hospo Voice last year and got advice about unpaid overtime on Mobilise. She got her stolen wages back, then started organising her colleagues. Now the venue owner has agreed to pay everyone back pay for their unpaid overtime.
Once you’ve got a group together and you know what you’re entitled to, take stock of the issues that you’ve got and brainstorm how you’re going to take collective action. Thinking about the organisation you work in and how they’ve dealt with conflict in the past will give you insights into how it’ll go down.
Initially, some ways you could highlight the issue include:
When you highlight the issue, make sure you’ve got the facts. For something like wage theft, use the Pay Checker tool on the Mobilise App to check what people should have been paid. Once you’ve got your calculations down on paper, it’s much harder for the employers to ignore the cold, hard facts.
According to Jess, some employers will try to divide and conquer but it’s important you all support each other.
“Don’t let them meet with workers one on one, always insist on group meetings. If you’re sending a letter to your boss, get everyone to sign it, etc. If your boss is trying to divide you, it means that what you’re doing is working, don’t back down!”
Your bosses are being arsehats and refusing to back down? Yeah, that happens sometimes. There are a few things you can do:
Want to read more about collective action?
*Not her real name
Get the latest news. Delivered fresh to your inbox.
For general enquiries please use the form.
If you have a question about an issue at work or your rights, head straight to our Mobilise app to get fast, reliable answers.
Media enquiries? Get in touch