true crime

This company fired an employee after he asked for a pay rise from $10 to $11 an hour.

Maurice Blackburn
Thanks to our brand partner, Maurice Blackburn

When Mohamed Rashid Ullat Thodi came to Australia, he had a dream. To earn a double degree in architecture and construction management.

After arriving in Melbourne, he devoted himself to his studies, earning distinctions.

He applied for a job at a local 7-Eleven to pay his way through university so his parents wouldn’t face financial pressure. What he didn’t realise was that despite doing all of the right things – working hard through the night, from 8pm to 8am  without a break – he would be exploited by a global corporation to the tune of thousands of dollars.

In the Fighting For Fair podcast, Mohamed’s story reveals the lengths his employers went to exploit him and his fellow workers.

You can listen, here…(post continues after this podcast episode)

When he was first offered the job at the convenience store, Mohamed agreed to be paid $10 per hour, well under the minimum legal pay rate in Australia for casual workers of $24.50 per hour. He desperately needed the work, having only $25 left in the bank, and even completed two months of unpaid training before starting his new role.

As a student, Mohamed knew he was only able to work 20 hours per week but the poor pay rate meant he had to work up to 60 hours per week just to keep his head above water. With little choice but to make the best of the situation, Mohamed persevered with the company for a year, all the time being told by his employer not to talk to anyone about the conditions under which he was forced to work for fear of being deported.

“It was hard enough doing a double degree along with long hours of work especially at night – 8pm to 8am in the morning – without any break,” Mohamed said on Fighting For Fair.

Mohamed being interviewed about his time at 7-Eleven. Image: ABC Four Corners

At first, Mohamed managed to cope with his demanding schedule but cracks started to appear when his employer transferred him to another store located an hour-and-a-half away from his home. The travel immediately took a toll on him and he started failing units in his course, unable to submit assignments due to work demands.

Mohamed decided to ask for a pay rise of $1 per hour to $11 per hour, to cover his travel expenses.

Coincidentally, after Mohamed asked for the pay rise his employer’s attitude began to change. Mohamed went from a star employee to a denounced one. His employers began criticising his work before eventually firing him.

He decided to fight back, but with little evidence to prove his case, it was a difficult path and he didn't have the money to fund an expensive court case.

Then thanks to his and one other case against 7-Eleven, the scandal broke publicly and Maurice Blackburn Lawyers offered free legal services to him and any other worker trying to claim back pay and entitlements.

During the legal action Mohamed learned that while he was working 50 hours per week for just $10 per hour, the company was actually recording him as having worked a 25-hour week and being paid $20 per hour.

And speaking to other exploited workers he realised this fight wasn't just about him.

"I could see the sadness in their eyes," he said.

Still, many employees said they'd rather be under-paid than not paid at all. They were just trying to survive.

7-Eleven became embroiled in a scandal after workers claimed they were underpaid and overworked. Image: Getty

It took Mohamed four years to win his case against his former employers but the franchisees declared themselves bankrupt and never ended up paying him. Still, he refused to give up, taking up the fight against the global corporation.

Ten years after starting his court case, Mohamed won.  He received his pay, way more than he'd asked for; and the effects were felt across Australia. His was one of two cases that led to other 7-Eleven workers receiving the money they were entitled to.

His case, and the subsequent publicity, was widely believed to have led to the uncovering of wage underpayment for workers across many industries. It led to the Fair Work Ombudsman stepping in to help workers recoup millions of dollars in unpaid wages.  Today, stories of exploitation still abound; of employers taking advantage of employees keen for income but often with little knowledge of their work rights.

But now there is action against it.

Listen to the full, incredible story on the Fighting For Fair podcast. Go to iTunes, here, or to the Mamamia podcast app.

To find all our podcasts in one place, please go here, where you'll also find any books written by the many Mamamia guests.

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