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Coles worker exposes 'crazy unfair' rule that sees her paid less than her colleagues

Gabbi said there needs to be a change because young people should be paid the same as their older counterparts for the same job.

Aussie money next to Coles worker Gabbi
Coles supervisor Gabbi said young Aussie workers are subjected to an unfair pay system. (Source: Getty/Channel 9)

A Coles worker has explained the frustrating reality of Australia's junior award policy. While Australia has a minimum wage rule to ensure the country's lowest-paid workers are able to afford basic necessities, people under 20 and under are subjected to even less pay.

The national minimum wage for full-time or part-time workers is currently $23.23 per hour, and casual workers receive that plus 25 per cent of the base on top. That number gets progressively smaller depending on how old you are and Coles supervisor Gabbi Colloff believes that's unfair.

"We are acknowledged by the government as legal adults. We can vote, we can buy cigarettes, you can buy alcohol, but why aren't we recognised as adults in our pay," the 19-year-old told A Current Affair.

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In her role, Colloff manages several staff who are older than her and, as a result, receive more money than her, despite being more junior.

She will have to wait one more year until she's getting paid the same as her older counterparts.

According to the Fair Work Ombudsman, the amount of money you earn depends on how old you are and whether you're employed full-time, part-time or as a casual.

Age

Full-time or part-time

Casual

Under 16 years

$8.55

$10.69

16 years

$10.99

$13.74

17 years

$13.43

$16.79

18 years

$15.87

$19.84

19 years

$19.16

$23.95

20 years

$22.70

$28.38

These rates are set to increase on July 1, along with the national minimum wage, by 3.75 per cent.

Fair Work decides whether to increase the minimum wage for employees and by how much each year. It said cost-of-living pressures faced by employees on award wages were its "primary consideration" in determining the level of increase.

But companies have different approaches for when the adult wage kicks in.

For Coles and Woolworths, workers 20 and over can receive an adult award, while people who work at Bunnings can access the adult wage at 18.

There is a big campaign trying to make junior award wages a thing of the past in Australia.

According to the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), more than 61 per cent of the fast food industry's staff across the country are on junior award wages, while more than 30 per cent of workers on the Broadcasting, Recorded Entertainment and Cinemas Award 2020 are also juniors.

ACTU assistant secretary Joseph Mitchell said it's high time young people are given the same wage as their adult counterparts for the same job because the current rules are "unfair".

"So many young people are working just as hard as everyone else in the workplace, but getting paid sometimes half, sometimes 60, sometimes 70 per cent of what a full adult does," Mitchell explained.

"It's ridiculous ... an 18-year-old retail worker would need to work 55 hours a week just to earn the same full-time wage as an adult.

"It's crazy that a 17-year-old waitress gets paid nearly $10 an hour less than her counterpart in the same cafe, even though they're doing the same work."

He added that young people are subjected to the same prices for rent, groceries and other necessities as Aussies 21 and over, so why should they not get the same pay?

But getting rid of junior wages could cause big trouble for small businesses.

Manly Fish Market owner Andrew Hill said it was hard enough to keep the lights on at the moment with the rising cost of living. But if he had to pay younger staff more money, that could break him.

"If we got another overhead that we suddenly had to cover ... that's going to be the final straw," he told A Current Affair.

"If suddenly I've got to pay a kid the same as an adult, I may as well employ the adult because they bring a lot more experience generally."

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