YOUNG WORKERS' RIGHTS: the Muffin Break general manager has upset many with her comments.
YOUNG WORKERS' RIGHTS: the Muffin Break general manager has upset many with her comments. Tobi Loftus

GEN-Z: Exploitation of young workers nothing new

THE hospitality industry is riddled with exploitation, from teenagers paid ridiculously low wages to employers dodging penalty rates at any chance they get, and a recent comment by one hospitality chain's employee solidified the notion as the norm.

Having worked in the industry for close to a decade I have gone through the pitfalls of bosses expecting too much and paying too little, forgetting to give staff mandatory breaks and ensuring your "above minimum" wage counteracts the lack of penalty rates.

Spoiler, it absolutely does not.

It is easy to become numb to the issue, and enter a job with low expectations, that are often lowered time and time again.

I am not incriminating any and all cafes and restaurants, there are good guys, the employers who actively work to ensure their staff are well looked after, but as someone who has worked in close to 20 cafes, restaurants and bars in several different states, unfortunately in my experience the good guys are few and far between.

Last month Muffin Break general manager Natalie Brennan sent Twitter into meltdown when she told young people were no longer walking in the door asking to work for free.

"There's just nobody walking in my door asking for an internship, work experience or unpaid work, nobody," Ms Brennan said.

"You don't see it anymore. Before that people would be knocking on your door all the time, you couldn't keep up with how many people wanted to be working. In fact I'd run programs because there were so many coming in."

Ms Brennan blamed the abhorrent decline on millenials' "inflated" sense of self-importance due to "X amount of Instagram followers or this many likes".

As expected, millenials, workers' unions and the general public who enjoy being paid for their work fought back, arguing entitlement was not expecting a wage, but rather expecting to have people in their 20s and 30s lining up at the door for no reward.

Ms Brennan replied via Facebook a couple of days after outrage spread throughout news and social media clarifying she was only referring to "supervised programs run through schools, TAFEs or universities".

"I don't expect anyone to work unpaid and Foodco Group policy is, and has always been, that all employees including interns, employed either directly or through our brands are paid according to relevant awards," she said.

While I believe internships and work experience are fundamental preparation for the workplace, so to is understanding your rights. A lesson I was never taught at university.

The hours of free work I put in throughout my studies were essential in allowing me to get the job I have now, and enter it with an understanding of how things work.

But a line must be drawn, where the expectation is not to accept working 10-hour days for no pay, and staying back late purely because it looks good. All young workers should be aware of their rights and fight to get them.