Magazine of Socialist Action in Australia

UNITE takes on 7-Eleven

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Below we publish a short report about the protest that UNITE held against 7-Eleven in Melbourne yesterday. We have also included the text of the UNITE leaflet handed out on the day and a very interesting interview conducted with a 7-Eleven worker.

First action against 7-Eleven a success!

Over 50 people attended UNITE’s first action against 7-Eleven in the Melbourne CBD on Friday September 5. The theme of the protest was 7-Eleven: Low pay – 24 hours a day. Over 3000 UNITE leaflets were handed out to customers in less than an hour!

The leaflets explained the greed of 7-Eleven who boast about their massive profit margins while at the same time underpaying their staff. UNITE is currently campaigning to organise 7-Eleven workers. Many of these workers are international students and some get paid as little as $9 per hour.

Anthony Main from UNITE told the crowd that hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid wages had been stolen from 7-Eleven workers over many years. “The only thing you can call it is the theft of workers wages on a grand scale” he said.

Liz Thompson, who has helped organise taxi drivers, and RMIT International Student Rep Ganesh spoke about the situation facing international students. Not only are international students ripped off at work but they are also exploited by the universities and by landlords.

UNITE was joined at the action by members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU), National Union of Workers (NUW), Australian Services Union (ASU), Union Solidarity and students from both RMIT and Melbourne University.

Anthony reported at the rally that already the work of UNITE is having some effect. He said that in a few 7-Eleven outlets the workers have now been “put on the books” and employed on a permanent part time basis. They have had their wages increased from around $9 per hour to $16. A pay rise of 55 per cent!

But Anthony said that while this is an improvement, it is not enough. “We want to make sure these workers are getting everything they are entitled to under the Award, including penalty rates, breaks and pro rata holidays and sick pay.”

“We call on 7-Eleven head office to meet with us as a matter of urgency. We want a firm commitment from them that they are going to put in place a system where by every single franchisee is sticking to the law.”

“If this doesn’t occur we will have no option but to escalate the action.” Anthony said.

By Socialist Party reporters

Leaflet: 7-Eleven: High prices & low pay

Make your choice – Say NO to the 7-Eleven rip-off!

Did you know that most 7-Eleven workers are paid as little as $9-10 per hour?

At the same time 7-Eleven boasts that they are the largest operator of convenience stores in the world. They have more than 300 stores in Australia and turned over more than $1.1 billion last year!

With this money you would think that 7-Eleven would at least pay their workers the minimum wage. Unfortunately this greedy multinational is more interested in making mega profits than paying their workers properly.

7-Eleven mostly employ international students who have had little work experience and often don’t know their rights. They are bullied and threatened with visa cancellations if they complain about their poor conditions.

If we allow a greedy multinational like 7-Eleven to get away with this behaviour more and more employers will try to follow suit. Today it is retail workers and international students tomorrow it could be you.

We ask shoppers to make an informed choice. Ask yourself do you want to be shopping at the home of high prices and low pay? Or should you just buy your products at another convenience store up the road?

UNITE is a union for fast food and retail workers and we are demanding that 7-Eleven stop ripping off their staff. With your support 7-Eleven workers will have a much better chance of winning decent pay and conditions.


Interview with 7-Eleven worker

A UNITE organiser recently interviewed one of our newest members. Below he tells us a bit about his working conditions and life as an international student. Peter (who has withheld his real name for fear of discrimination) is 22 years old and works at a 7-Eleven store in the Melbourne CBD.

UNITE: What led you to first contact UNITE?

Peter: We saw an article about UNITE in the newspaper. They were helping some other shop workers who were being underpaid. We thought maybe they can help 7-Eleven workers as we all get very low pay.

UNITE: How long have you been working for 7-Eleven?

Peter: I have been working at 7-Eleven for just over 6 months. I was training for 1 month and then I got shifts after that. It’s not a very good job but I need the work to pay my way through university. I am studying at Victoria University.

UNITE: What is the pay and conditions like at 7-Eleven?

Peter: I get $10 per hour cash. It’s a flat rate which means it’s the same on day and night shift. I also get a few free drinks from the fridge but I have to pay for food.

I didn’t get paid for my first month when I was training but I was told I would get a pay rise to $11 per hour after the first 6 months. I am still waiting for this though.

I get 3 shifts a week. Sometimes they are at night from about 2am till 7am or during the day I usually work from about from 7am till 7pm. These shifts vary a bit and usually I only get a days notice before I have to work. Without a proper roster it makes it hard to fit in my study.

UNITE: Do you think these pay rates and conditions are unique to your store?

Peter: No, no, no. It is roughly the same at every 7-Eleven store. The highest rate I have heard of is $13 per hour. I even know someone in Queensland that works for 7-Eleven and the situation is the same up there.

UNITE: Do you get pay slips?

Peter: No I just get paid cash from the till. Some of the other workers do get pay slips and get paid by cheque or into their bank account. But the problem is the pay slips are wrong.

Say you have worked 20 hours a week, the pay slip says you have only worked 10 hours. So you only get half of what you should. I know some other workers get superannuation but I don’t think I get this.

UNITE: 12 hour shifts are quite long, what about meal breaks?

Peter: No we don’t get breaks. Mostly I work on my own so no one is around to relieve me for a break. My boss told me that the shop must stay open at all times. I usually try to eat something while I am working. If I need to go to the toilet I usually just go quickly when things are slow.

UNITE: 7-Eleven are a big company. Do you know how much money your store turns over?

Peter: I don’t know exactly but the slowest shift I have ever done during the night made over $1000 in sales. Some of the other workers have said that a lot of 7-Elevens in the city regularly take between $10,000 and $20,000 a day!

UNITE: How many people work in your store?

Peter: At the moment there are about 10 workers. We all only get a few shifts a week. This makes it hard as mostly my pay is around $200 per week. Obviously you can not live on this amount so a lot of us have to work two jobs.

The worst thing about this is, being international students, we are not supposed to work more than 20 hours a week. This is a visa requirement. The problem is we are forced to break this rule because the pay is so low.

UNITE: Have you ever complained to the boss about the conditions at work?

Peter: Yes a few of us have raised the problems with the manager. He just said if you don’t like it you can leave. Until we met UNITE we didn’t know that we could do anything about it. We were not told anything about employment law before we started work.

UNITE: What do you think can be done to improve your working conditions?

Peter: We don’t want anything special. We just want to get paid what we are entitled to. If I was getting the minimum wage I wouldn’t need to work so many hours. Then I would have more time for my university work.

I think it is a terrible situation when a big company like 7-Eleven takes advantage of people, especially international students. Many of us have not had any work experience before. 7-Eleven can afford to pay us right, they have lots of money.

UNITE: You have joined UNITE do you think other 7-Eleven workers will join?

Peter: Yes, quite a few of us have already joined. There is a lot of talk about UNITE between 7-Eleven workers especially in the city. At university people are also talking about it. International students always mix together so the word spreads fast.

Some people are saying maybe we need to take action like the taxi drivers did a few months ago. They just stopped work and protested in the city. Maybe UNITE should do something like this.


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