Air-conditioning business slammed for “sexist” job ad that referred to “fat Australian chicks” – and offered below-award wages

Article by Dominic Powell /
Smart Company /
August 19, 2016 /
Click here to view original /

An air conditioning installation business in Queensland has come under fire for a sexist job advertisement posted on Gumtree, which also offered potential employees to work for for well below awards rates.

The ad stated the business is looking for workers fresh out of school or seeking apprenticeships, reports Fairfax.

Air Conditioning Expert Brisbane listed the ad on August 12, with positions for qualified installers and “young guys who don’t know s**t”. The pay rates offered were $15-25 for trade assistants “depending on what you know,” and $10-15 for apprentices. “Most likely 10 but you’ll go to 15 if you are good,” said the business.

These wages are well below what is supported by the Manufacturing and Associated Industries and Occupations Award, where first-year apprentices should receive at least $12.66 per hour, and grade one electrical workers at least $18.72.

The ad said the job involved “crawling in roofs”, working through “the hottest days in summer” and geting “sunburnt, dehydrated, and disorientated”. These dubious conditions were then followed by a number of sexist comments.

“You will be working through the hottest days of summer and fat Australian chicks will sit inside in the air conditioning, not offer you a drink or lift a finger to help clean up,” the business said.

“Then she will tell us we are all equal. That’s our life. We are men. We wouldn’t trade places with her anyway.”

SmartCompany contacted the business by phone but was told to send an email instead, to which the business is yet to respond. However, when Fairfax rang, an employee said the ad was “pretty funny” after having it read to him.

The ad has since been taken down.

The Electrical Trades Union took to Facebook to express their distaste for the advertisement, telling the business to “fix your attitude”.

“A quick note to the flogs who posted this ad: Either fix your attitude or get out of our trades. There is no place for sexism, underpayment or shonky operators like you,” the union said.

Lauren Rosewarne, advertising and feminist politics expert at the University of Melbourne told SmartCompany it was sad the company’s “default route to ‘humour’ centres on sexism”.

“The whole purpose of writing any kind of advertisement is to have people read it. Attention getting through misogyny however, gets a company the wrong type of attention,” Rosewarne says.

She warns businesses to be conscious of the attention online advertisements can attract, saying, “it doesn’t just stop with an imagined group of larrikin tradies.”

“Instead, the company gets branded as insulting to an audience that includes women – women who make the majority of decisions in households regarding things like air-conditioning,” she says.

“Companies should try to use humour because audiences remember genuinely funny ads. Humour however, needs to be more than sly digs at women.”

A poor example of customer and employee respect

Ben Watts, director at WattsNext HR, told SmartCompany the advertisement was so offensive he “questions the authenticity”.

“It’s so bad in so many ways, it’s almost like it’s a stitch-up,” he says.

Watts says he encourages businesses to differentiate themselves when it comes to online recruitment ads which might get lost in the masses, but says this one went too far.

“I know it’s hard for businesses to differentiate themselves, and I think they were trying to be funny and attract the young tradies coming out of school,” Watts says.

Watts also notes the lack of respect for both the business’ customers and employees, highlighting this as something businesses should focus on with online recruitment.

“The way they’ve described women in the advertisement is how they describe their customers, this shows no respect for the customer who pays the bill,” he says.

“Referring to the young guys as not knowing shit and offering them such a low rate of pay, it’s almost going down the line of saying it’s okay to bully staff. As an employer you have a responsibility to create a safe working environment.

“The culture of the business is shown clearly in that advertisement, and it’s extremely damaging to this business.”