The Hospo Voice union has teamed up with Friends of the Earth and RMIT University for the Climate Impacts at Work project to investigate how climate change is already affecting workers. Here's one hospo worker's account of her experiences.
My name's Monique and I've been working in hospitality for a little over 10 years.
There's so much that I love about this work - the people, the pace, the product. It can be so rewarding to bring joy to people, one plate at a time.
But there's no denying it can be a challenging industry to work in, and to build a life around. I've always been frustrated by the seemingly ubiquitous assumption that this isn't a 'real' job - and dismayed by the impacts that perception has upon the conditions of my work.
Because waitressing isn't a 'real' job, bosses feel like they can set their own value for our labour, and get away with wage theft. Because "we run our business like a family" is an accepted norm, the occupational safety standards that are due to workers are often neglected, or absent entirely.
Free coffees are great, but I want to be safe and secure in this industry where I am consistently told what a 'gun waitress' I am, and yet have no prospects for a career.
And all this is made more difficult by the growing and undeniable impacts of climate change at work.
The question of whether or not it's time to leave hospitality work is always more pressing as summer approaches. It's sweaty, physically intense work - no matter what anyone outside the industry thinks of it.
The pressures of keeping your cool, of presenting a friendly face for the business, of looking put-together in the way a customer expects of their waitress - these are all made infinitely more challenging in extreme heat. Especially where, as in my current venue, there isn't a walk-in cool room to find reprieve on your breaks.
When I imagine a future working in this industry, I fear a summer full of 40 degree days. I fear a workplace that still has no OH&S procedures even as we start having to send people home with heat stress - or to hospital with heat stroke.
In my current workplace I am a Supervisor, and already I feel the pressures of balancing employee welfare against the needs of the business. When we're all sweating through a shift, vying to serve the tables closest to the air conditioner, I want to say "it's too hot! Everyone go home!" But in hospo, the margins are always narrow, and in a post-lockdown economy, it seems ridiculous to even suggest missing out on a potential sale.
Free coffees are great, but I want a workplace that recognises the value of its workers and takes measures to protect them.
I want our bosses to provide clear procedures for how to operate safely in extreme heat, and sunscreen made available to workers serving outdoor tables. I want free masks and RATs to help hospo workers keep themselves and their community safe as they work during a global pandemic. I want our government to divest from fossil fuels, and fund public health systems, so that we can enjoy our Sunday brunches in a society that values the people serving them.
Hospo workers can take the Climate Impacts at Work survey through this link until Sunday March 13.