Petrol business owners docking workers wages

24 November 2014

A UC business and economics associate professor isn't surprised petrol business owners would make their staff pay for loss of income with customers not paying their petrol.

Petrol business owners docking workers wages - Imported from Legacy News system

Associate professor Annick Masselot

A University of Canterbury business and economics associate professor says she is not surprised that petrol business owners would make their staff pay for loss of income due to customers not paying their petrol.

Reports in recent days have suggested some petrol stations were docking the wages of attendants if customers drove off without paying for gas during their shift, charging the employee for the price of the stolen petrol.

The issue first came to light after reports that staff at a service station in Masterton had their wages docked. More petrol station workers have come forward to say they have suffered similar practices.

Canterbury business academic Associate Professor Annick Masselot says the practice is neither acceptable or legal.

"There seems to be a lot of grey practice areas in terms of pay. For instance in the hospitality industry, there is no set policy regarding what happens to tips paid by customers. Some recent studies conducted in Australia show that some business owners use the tips to pay for breakage and other short change in the final accounts.

"Some of the business owners use the tips to cover the cost of wine that has gone off or even new coffee machines for instance. So I am not surprised that petrol business owners would make their staff pay for loss of income due to customers not paying for their petrol.

"Workers in precarious positions, low pay and low skill jobs, are often at risk of being further exploited by unscrupulous employers. Some employers instigate unsavoury work policies which employees are not always aware are illegal and that they could challenge.

"Our workforce, especially when they are precariously employed, with low skills and low education, do often not know the rights they have or how to implement them. Often also they think that if they challenge their employers they will be at risk of losing their job. And they do run that risk.

Jobs such as restaurant kitchen hands or petrol attendants are easily replaceable because these jobs are relatively unskilled roles. Claiming their rights is bound to lead to more vulnerability for these workers who not only get exploited but also cannot claim their right for fear of losing their jobs.

"One way around it is to increase their union representation. Another way is for the government to decide that all workers are valuable in our society and that these workers, although unskilled, are contributing to the economy and should be protected from breaches of basic rights. Access to legal institutions and advice should be made more readily available.

"The law should serve these workers better and more effectively. I have talked many times in various circumstances about the gap that exists between the law and practice. This is one of such example, Associate Professor Masselot says.

For further information please contact:
Kip Brook
Media Consultant
Student Services and Communications 
University of Canterbury
Ph: (03) 364 3325
Mobile: 027 5030 168
kip.brook@canterbury.ac.nz