National burger chain Grill'd has been slammed for reportedly paying its workforce 'rock-bottom' wages while staff do a training course, a workers union states.
A popular burger chain in Australia has been accused of paying staff a "rock-bottom" hourly rate while making them feel they must undertake a traineeship to work there.
Some Grill'd staff allegedly feel they must to do a government-subsidised hospitality traineeship to land the job - bringing down the net wage, The Age reported on Saturday.
But Grill'd argue it's not doing anything wrong by its staff merely upskilling them.
An 18-year-old Grill'd worker on a traineeship is paid an hourly flat rate of $14.50 per hour under the current agreement, workers union Hospo Voice states.
That's $4.23 per hour less on a Saturday and Sunday than a worker under the fast-food award who is not doing a traineeship, it adds.
The Fair Work Commission approved the agreement in 2015 and it expires this month.
United Workers Union national secretary Tim Kennedy said the deal should never have been approved.
"What Grill'd workers are saying is that these traineeships are a cruel joke," he said.
"It's just a dodgy tactic to pay them rock bottom wages. Trainee wages and rolled-up rates shouldn't be a back door to exploitation."
Patrick Stephenson, who has worked at Grill'd for two years, said he does not get penalty rates for working evenings or the weekends just a flat rate of $18.50 an hour.
"One of the reasons I'm paid so little is because Grill'd pressured me to do a dodgy traineeship. It's just an excuse to pay me trainee wages," the 23-year-old said.
"These traineeships are a joke. The 'skills' you're taught are basic things you're already learning on the job, like how to clean up the store at the end of a shift. But if you don't do the traineeship, you don't get to work at Grill'd."
Ninety-two per cent of 370 current and former Grill'd workers surveyed in 2018 by an Australian University Union student group reportedly said the traineeship wasn't worth it.
Yet more than 750 Grill'd employees have completed their qualifications in the past 12 months, with 31 per cent of the company's staff listed as trainees, a spokeswoman said.
"We are proud of our traineeship program and that our team members continually win nationally recognised customer service accolades as a result of their training," a Grill'd spokeswoman told AAP on Saturday.
"Our traineeship program has provided qualifications and a pathway for thousands of Australians across hospitality and other industries."
The fast-food chain changed its pay rates in 2015 after public backlash when a worker launched legal action claiming she was sacked for asking for fair pay.