No penalty rate cuts for ASRC social enterprise workers

The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre will not pass on cuts in the penalty rate to casual workers employed in catering and cleaning social enterprises, ensuring these workers are not worse off when rostered on weekend or evening shifts.

About 20 catering staff and about 15 cleaning staff, many of whom are people seeking asylum who rely on the social enterprise jobs as their sole source of income, would have been impacted by the penalty rate cut.

In some instances, the cuts would have reduced their pay rates by more than $3.60 an hour.

But the ASRC has guaranteed the casual staff will be paid penalty rates which were in existence prior to July 1, when a Fair Work Commission ruling on employees employed under certain awards came into law.

The stance reiterates the ASRC’s commitment to being an ethical employer and ensuring it acts in the best interests of its members.

We believe as a human rights organisation that we must always walk the talk and lead with our values, says ASRC CEO, Kon Karapanagiotidis. We’re proud to protect penalty rates for our staff as we believe that investing in our staff and ensuring a genuine living wage that enables them to thrive in our community is a fundamental human right all people should have.

ASRC enterprise workers have spoken about the importance of these casual positions to them and their families.

Eugene*, an ASRC social enterprise cleaner, said his income was important, but a wider sense of belonging, understanding Australia, and improving his language skills could not have happened without his job.

“Even though I have experience when I arrive here I feel like I don’t know anything. You start to feel like you are nothing and that’s very bad.

“They not only give you a job but they also help you do that job.”

Hubs and Janvier, who both worked in the ASRC Catering North Fitzroy kitchen for several years, found the jobs invaluable for supporting their endeavours for further study, while making them more employable and teaching them new skills.

“I didn’t cook back home, so I had to learn everything from scratch,” Janvier said. “I’m learning skills I can use at home to get food on the table too.”

While the social enterprises are invaluable for ASRC members seeking asylum, they are also highly successful businesses in their own right.

The ASRC Catering, ASRC Cleaning, and Food Justice Truck social enterprises continue to go from strength to strength, and are a key factor behind the growth in total revenue at the ASRC, the latest annual report shows.

The report shows that the enterprises increased combined income from $973,000 in 2014-15 to $1.57 million last year – a leap of more than $600,000.

All profits from the social enterprises are invested back into the ASRC to support people seeking asylum.

The longest running of the enterprises, ASRC Catering, had its most successful year since being founded in 2005.

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