Darren’s Story – A Passion for Coffee and Fairness

Date: 14 Aug 2019 

I won’t take it and I will fight for my rights.”

 

Darren Chan was 13 years old when he first visited Australia with his family, and he decided to come back someday to the southern continent for the blue sky, pure air and people’s hospitality.

13 years later, he found himself working in the hospitality industry as a barista in the eastern suburb of Melbourne.

With a passion for making great coffee and a dream of owning his own business back in his hometown of Keelung, a port city near the Taipei, Darren landed in Australia in May 2018 and went through professional training in Brisbane.

Despite the desire to work full-time as a barista and gain hands-on experience as much as possible, Darren is on a Working Holiday Visa and must work intermittently on farms to be able to stay in the country.

“I have mixed feelings about working on a farm, I had the best and worst days in Australia,” noted Darren, a gentle and humble young man. “One employer used to stuff us in a crowded room like sardines, and workers were only given eight coins per week, seven for shower, one for using the washer. `

“But I also had the best time so far, because for some time I could actually enjoy life in Australia. When I was working on a farm in New South Wales, two colleagues and I stay at an old lady’s house near the beach. She was really nice to us. We were making six to eight hundred a week by working six hours a day,” continued Darren. “We then drove back home and prepared dinners together. I was really enjoying my life.”

After several gigs including picking strawberries in Queensland and blueberries in New South Wales, he moved to Melbourne, one of best places for coffee in the world, to pursue his dream. A café near Flinders Street Train Station was the only employer that would hire someone like him who had no “local experience” in coffee making.

“The boss asked us to work several days for training purposes, and all the hours were not paid. He would cut one person from one shift and add two trainees. So, he had four staff in one shift but only need to pay for two.” Darren claimed. “We had no Super, no penalty rate, no sick or annual leaves. We were even asked to pretend to be customers during off-peak hours, and the boss didn’t pay us because he said we were having breaks.”

During the entire four and a half months there, Darren was paid a flat rate between $13-$14 per hour, and his daily job involved making coffee, working in the kitchen, making deliveries, setting rosters and ordering supplies.

 

 

The boss was not only underpaying Darren and the rest, but also allegedly sexually harassing female staff, as screenshot of conversation between Darren and a female worker indicated that the boss, married, touched the chin and collarbone of a young working holiday maker.

Darren tried going to the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) but, according to him, all the help the FWO could offer was a follow-up phone call asking the boss to pay him back. He then noticed the Migrant Workers Centre’s Facebook page and the SBS report on two Chinese international students standing up for their backpay of $200,000 in Box Hill.

The Migrant Workers Centre is now working with Darren, together with the Young Workers Centre and Hospo Voice, the hospitality workers’ union. Darren is talking to his former workmates and friends, many of them work at restaurants and cafes across Melbourne, about joining together and claim what they are legally entitled to.

“The former boss warned me not to demand my rights from a citizen like him, because he thought I will never win. This is not the Australia I came for and such experience is not what I want to bring home. I won’t take it and I will fight for my rights,” Darren said. “If they (international students from Box Hill) could do it, we could do it too!”