Strip club fines on dancers a 'nasty and coercive' practice, says prostitutes' collective

August 31, 2023

Strip club fines on dancers a 'nasty and coercive' practice, says prostitutes' collective

Stripper Sienna won her claim against her ex-employer. Photo: supplied

New Zealand sex workers facing unfair work conditions are being encouraged to take legal action after an Auckland stripper won her claim against her ex-employer in the Disputes Tribunal recently .

Dancer Sienna* took legal action against downtown Auckland strip club Showgirls when it refused to return her “bond”, a sum of $550 taken out of her earnings at the start of her contract.

Dame Catherine Healey DNZM, national coordinator and founding member of the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective, is encouraging more sex workers to take legal redress.

“You're well protected [in the small-claims tribunal], so we'd urge anyone who has a claim to seek support,” she said.

“We've had meetings with the head of the Disputes Tribunal recently and certainly they would be welcoming of sex workers taking their cases through that tribunal.”

Some stripclubs like Showgirls also fine their dancers for reasons such as calling in sick, not showing up for their shift, or for issues of conduct and behaviour.

Fining srippers was a "very nasty, coercive practice. And it's certainly a practice that doesn't belong in the context of sex-work venues," said Healy.

“It's a way of mismanaging, building resentment, alienating. It's a destructive practice."

The dancers are independent contractors but the fining system seems to be a unique practice to these types of clubs.

“They're dealing with a population predominantly of women and it's quite young women as well, and that's . . . a misogynistic practice as well.”

Dancer Sienna added to these claims of misogyny, saying fining workers is patronising.

“Treat us like full-on contractors and don't baby us that way.

“I think it's mostly a scheme to try and get more money off the girls, because they know they can get away with it,” she said

Sienna told TWN some of the fines listed in the Showgirls contract are “arbitrary”, allowing the club to penalise employees when they perceive them as being rude to management or customers.

Healey said after the decriminalisation of prostitution in 2003, “full-service” sex workers were able to break free of oppressive operators, managing their own businesses and collectives.

She said strippers still had less choice, having to go with bigger clubs, some that are part of chains, with more money and power.

“It's not to say we don't still have some brothel operators who impose fines, but they're very much in the minimum, so, it's disappointing that there are any who do this at all.

“And good on the dancers for going to the Disputes Tribunal.”

Showgirls did not respond to TWN's requests for comment.

*Sienna is her dancer name, not her real name.

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