The survey, conducted between January and March this year, polled 306 hospitality workers, 90 per cent of whom were female. The union ran the survey in response to what it saw as a change in attitude towards the issue.
“Sexual harassment has always been a big problem in this industry. What’s changed is that workers are speaking out and saying ‘enough: we deserve to feel safe and respected at work’,” says United Voice Victorian secretary Jess Walsh.
Bonnie Jones, 22, has worked in hospitality in Melbourne for nearly five years. She first experienced sexual harassment on just her second night of work in the industry.
“I was working at a restaurant-slash-bar, and at about 11pm it would switch and become like a nightclub sort of vibe,” she says. “I was carrying my tray around picking up glassware. I bent over to pick up a glass and a customer thought it would be really funny to grab the back of my head and shove it into his crotch.
“One of the managers was actually watching this at the time and I looked back at him … he just went back to being on his phone.
Australian law defines sexual harassment as any unwelcome sexual advance, unwelcome request for sexual favours or other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature that makes a person feel offended, humiliated or intimidated.
The manager of Green Park in North Carlton, Lily Stokes, is working to fight against the threat of harassment in the workplace.
“I guess because I’ve worked in management and supervisor roles for the last part of my career, it’s something I’ve always let my staff know that I have zero tolerance for. I want my staff and patrons to feel safe and backed up,” she says.
Stokes wants to see more leadership from employers.