Artificial intelligence is the latest weapon in hospitality wage-theft war

Chef Jules Gibson is working behind the scenes with a new hi-tech weapon to help fight the hospitality industry's wage theft scourge.

Chef Jules Gibson is working behind the scenes with a new hi-tech weapon to help fight the hospitality industry's wage theft scourge.

After exposing wage theft in restaurants helmed by celebrity chefs George Calombaris and Heston Blumenthal two of Australia’s unions are turning to artificial intelligence to help workers stand up for their rights.

Workers in Australia’s hospitality industry can now get easy access to information about pay, hours and help with bullying or sexual harassment claims via the AI-powered Mobilise app.

In just a few months, Mobilise, a collaboration between Hospo Voice and the Australian Council of Trade Unions, has already helped some workers receive thousands of dollars in back pay.

Jules Gibson, 35 is a chef in Melbourne. She volunteers behind the scenes of the app – and recently helped win back more than $10,000 in unpaid wages for a woman in her 50s.

Ms Gibson said Lucy was underpaid for 10 years, and was being paid just $21 with no penalty rates.

“She was newly divorced, it was her first job. She was in the frame of mind where she felt she was lucky to get a job,” Ms Gibson told The New Daily.

That set the tone of why she didn’t dispute the wages, she didn’t know about the award.”

When the pandemic hit, the business got JobKeeper – and Lucy realised just how much she had been underpaid.

“Because JobKeeper came through it meant a lot of businesses had to become legitimate, or try to be more legitimate, with their paperwork,” said Ms Gibson.

“Lucy was getting payslips that were reflecting penalty rates, and she was like ‘I’ve never been paid this’.”

Mobilise is based off a similar app in the United States which helped Walmart employees.

Questions are answered by current hospitality workers and IBM Watson-powered artificial intelligence. It includes tools like PayChecker, Record My Hours, an online Harassment Diary and Fact Sheets with tips on how to enforce workplace rights.

Wage theft is rampant in hospitality. Photo: Getty

Ms Gibson helped Lucy write a letter, claiming she had been chronically underpaid.

The employer admitted they had cut her short more than $10,000 in unpaid wages and long service leave and repaid it. She’s got a new job and is now being paid properly.

But Ms Gibson says there is a lot of misinformation in regards to what’s right and wrong.

She herself, recently won back $20,000 dollars from wage theft and said the sum ‘changed her life’.

“It’s not a lot of of money in the grand scheme of things but it’s enough to make decisions that are more protective of my rights.”

ACTU Secretary Sally McManus said the union was built around sharing knowledge, and the app would only help bring this into the 21st century.

“This is a great new resource which will give workers across hospitality access to critical information which can be constantly updated and improved,” Ms McManus said.

“Working people will always be innovating and finding new ways to help each other. This is new technology but it has a very long and proud history in our movement.”

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