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Millennials work for free? Muffin doing



Recently Natalie Brennan, general manager of Muffin Break, spoke about how millennials are too entitled to work for free and no longer see the value in 'experience' and the opportunities this provides. She suggested that millennials have an 'inflated view of their self-importance'.

MuffinGenerally speaking, a millennial is anyone born after 1980. We're kind of a cross between Gen Y (mid 70s to mid 90s) and Gen Z (mid 90s to mid 00s) and personally I can't really figure out why the term even exists, given Gen Y and Gen Z are perfectly acceptable descriptors. But, it's certainly a buzz term and one mostly used to denigrate young people.

So, what exactly is Brennan on about? Ironically, she has an inflated view of her company's importance and believes that 'millennials' should jump at the opportunity to work for her in an unpaid internship.

Perhaps if we had access to free education as the generations before us did, we would jump at the opportunity to gain 'experience'. However, according to a 2017 report by Universities Australia, research showed that 30 per cent of full-time domestic undergraduate students were working more than 20 hours per week in paid employment in addition to their studies. This study also suggested that only 35 per cent of students in paid employment felt their work/study balance was satisfactory, with more than a quarter missing class because of work commitments.

Unfortunately for us, 'experience' won't pay the bills.

Sadly, the ideas espoused by Brennan are not uncommon and see workers in all industries, but most specifically retail, fast food and hospitality, losing not only their rights at work but also their wages in stolen penalty rates and unpaid superannuation.

As a student, I am aware of the competition and drive that exists among other students as we near the end of our courses, whether that be at TAFE or uni, the desperation to make it through the course and come out somewhat unscathed. But before the celebrations of graduating have even begun, there's the realisation of the debt accrued, and the panic of finding a job ensues.


"Big businesses have caught onto this panic, and are using it to their advantage."


Throughout our courses we're told time and time again, by staff and other students, that simply having the piece of paper and degree title is no longer enough to guarantee a job offer when you graduate. So students fight each other for scarce internships and placements, offered through the institution and outside of it. We volunteer, we work part-time, we do whatever we can to stand out from our peers and stay alive.

Unfortunately for us, the desperation and panic we feel, leaves us open and susceptible to exploitation. There's this idea that we'll work for free because 'experience' is everything. And big businesses have noticed this, they've caught onto this panic and are using it to their advantage. There's hundreds of internships available, so long as you are prepared to work for free. This has been the case for years, but only recently has it appeared in the general media sphere, specifically thanks to Muffin Break.

Naturally Natalie Brennan's comments went viral and a meme page was even created in her honour (yes, 'millennials' do love a good meme!). ACTU Secretary Sally McManus congratulated young workers on standing up to 'being robbed', and Maddison Johnstone of Franchise Redress told the Guardian that 'people are willing to put up with exploitation because they're desperate and fearful and really need a job'. HospoVoice, the relevant union for employees of Muffin Break, said in a Facebook post, 'Gen Y is fighting back and we're coming for every boss that behaves like you.'

To get involved with standing up to these dodgy employers you can follow the Twitter account @dodgyinternship or visit HospoVoice campaigns 'Rate My Boss' or 'Fair Plate' when choosing your next restaurant or café. It is important to support these organisations and union campaigns as they are there to support young workers in the fight to ensure their safety and rights at work.

This is not only important for ensuring workers are paid fairly but also for ensuring they are not exposed to assault, bullying or OH&S concerns while working. Young workers, especially those from overseas, are often unaware of their rights and feel easily silenced by employers. But we are not alone, and we are not powerless.



Brenna DempseyBrenna Dempsey is the Vice President of the Retail and Fast Food Workers Union and a passionate advocate for workers' rights.

Topic tags: Brenna Dempsey, Muffin Break, millennials, unpaid internships, exploitation



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Existing comments

Brennan exemplifies the resurrected omnipotent bourgeoisie. Our Reactionaries in office have overturned Australian triumphs like the 8 Hours Day enshrined 171 years ago in Victoria's Stonemasons Award. They've murdered another world first: Justice H.Higgins Harvester Award that brought fairness to minimum pay levels, regular Cost of Living adjustments and just Penalty Rates. Now this muffin vendor boasts of committing two of the four Sins that Cry to Heaven for Vengeance: Oppression of the Poor and Defrauding Labourers of their Wages.

James Marchment | 05 March 2019  

Congratulations Brenna on this article which raises the issue of the rights of working people. In this day and age, the exploitation of young workers along the lines suggested by Natalie Brennan is totally unacceptable. All too often these days, we hear executives like Natalie suggesting that young workers should be prepared to work for nothing. The irony is that in many cases, the people who suggest this are on extremely high incomes. I think it is about time that these people who think it is acceptable to exploit young workers as suggested by Brennan should read article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states: Article 23. (1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment. (2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work. (3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection. (4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests. Australia is a signatory to the Declaration and Australia was represented in its formulation. This is something we should be proud of and why we should respect the human rights of ordinary working people. Furthermore, we should support the fine work done by Brenna's union - the Retail and Fast Food Workers Union - for the wonderful work it has done to get full payment for workers in the food industry who were severely cheated out of their full wages by the large food corporations. We can also show our solidarity with young workers by boycotting Muffin Break until it ceases it unfair activities.

Andrew (Andy) Alcock | 05 March 2019  

Absolutely spot on Brenna. I am now retired, but was lucky to go to Uni in the post Whitlam years, when Tertiary Fees were paid by the Government .As I was at UNE, I still had to pay College fees etc so ran up a debt which took a couple of years to pay off plus the interest. I completed a Masters some years ago, but as I was working, my Debt came out of my Tax refunds for a few years after I graduated. Young people find it hard enough to get a job let alone one that pays enough for them to pay off their Uni debt Unfortunately under the neo liberal policies of today's Liberal NP Government students run up huge "HECS " debts without the certainty of getting employment in the fields they graduated in. They need to work to survive. Natalie Brennan's comments seem to reflect an attitude that 'slave labour is ok just so the business can make heaps of profit at the workers expense. I find her comments disgusting and insulting, not just to the Millennials generation but to the work force in general. Without dedicated workers, her company would go bus5t-maybe it needs to so she can get the message that business owners are not too entitled either!

Gavin O'Brien | 06 March 2019  

Well done Brenna Dempsey. As a father of Millennial daughters who both held paid part work through their secondary & tertiary education I am gobsmacked by this muffin approach. The juggling the girls did made them "work ready" for careers post graduation. Yes, it was difficult at times, & yes I lied for them to get them out of shifts at other times, but they somehow survived the tyranny of casual work while studying full & part time. The concept of this "practice unpaid work" in muffin work is simply a nonsense. Pay the award, teach the balance of "rent is the first reality" while they attend classes, tutes & construct assignments. These Millennials will become the prophets of the future & how they are treated in the work place sets the tone as to how they will treat others. Others who in all possibility will be balancing a double life of study & paid casual work.

Rory Harris | 06 March 2019  

As a father of three GenZ'ers, my experience is that when they were old enough to start part time work, we insisted they did so. We didn't specify where they worked, as long as they did so. They all learned invaluable lessons in part time work, including at Muffin Break which was a good employer for one of ours; and maybe let's remember that it's franchised so you cannot really say because of one set of comments (albeit from the GM of Muffin Break) that this actually carries through to every Muffin Break store - it simply does not. But on to the sentiment expressed; a simple disagreement with it is probably all that is required (rather than boycotts and attempts to turn Muffin Break into a social pariah). Our youngest left school early and that was fine with us as long as she had somewhere to go as an alternative. She chose a Diploma of Beauty Therapy with a well known brand in North Sydney. The one year diploma included an 'unpaid internship' consisting of working for nothing for 100 hours at a salon (approached and negotiated by the student, not the college) and this hundred hours turned into 200. Regardless, our 'entitled millenial' completed her Diploma, continued to work at the same salon for a couple of years, before getting herself accepted into a Nursing degree (which is not easy without an ATAR). Our little entitled millenial then proceeded to work full time AND study full time, for fours years until she qualified as a Registered Nurse and started last week in her Transition to Professional Placement (more study and more full time work). The "entitled millenial" monika may apply to some; HOWEVER in my experience, I just don't know of any.

Rob Brigden | 07 March 2019  

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