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UNI Global Union’s largest affiliate in Australia, the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA) has launched a new campaign to challenge a long-standing practice of paying younger workers less in the country’s retail, fast food, and pharmacy industries.

A person is considered an adult once they reach 18 in Australia. However, under the current system, 18-year-old workers receive just 70 per cent of the adult wage, while 19-year-olds are paid 80 per cent. Even 20-year-old workers are only entitled to 90 per cent of the full adult wage.

With a clear and powerful slogan, “If you’re of Adult Age, you should earn an Adult Wage,” the SDA is making a strong case that the current system is discriminatory and unfair.

The SDA has recently filed a case with the Fair Work Commission (FWC), Australia’s independent body that decides minimum workplace standards, to rectify this injustice.

The union argues that workers aged 18 and over must receive a full adult wage. In addition, the SDA is proposing lifting the pay rate for younger workers under 16 years old to 50 per cent of the adult wage and increasing the rate for 17-year-olds to 75 per cent.

If successful, the case will set a new minimum legal rate standard across the retail, fast food, and pharmacy industries. More importantly, it will also automatically benefit all young workers covered by Enterprise Agreements that currently include junior rates.

Gerard Dwyer, SDA National Secretary and President of UNI Global Union, said,

“There is no justification for adult workers who are 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds, doing the same job as their older counterparts, to be paid less. They can vote, enter licensed premises and join the armed forces – they are adults on every other measure. The SDA will put our best case forward at the FWC to redress this unfair situation.”

UNI Asia & Pacific Regional Secretary Rajendra Acharya, said, “SDA is making an important contribution to uplift young workers in Australia, and we fully support their campaign. It is also another great example of how unions can involve young people in union campaigns by addressing their issues directly.”

The SDA will be launching a new advertising campaign to raise awareness about the issue soon.

Photo credit: SDA Australia