Stripper fines common, industry expert says
More exotic dancers have come forward criticising what they call unfair and ‘‘coercive’’ fines imposed on strip club workers.
It is so widespread one strip club manager said ‘‘if there are clubs who say that they don’t do it, then they’re probably not telling you the truth.’’
Some advocates and former dancers have called for an end to the practice, while others have defended the system as a means of maintaining order.
It comes after The Press revealed 22-year-old Jessica Clifford was planning to sue Christchurch strip club Calendar Girls in a case that has exposed the club’s inner workings.
A document provided to Clifford’s employment advocate in response to a contract contained an exhaustive list of fines, including $50 for missing a spot on stage to $2500 for dancing for a competitor.
‘‘It scared a lot of the girls, because that was their only income,’’ Clifford said of the fines system.
Calendar Girls said it ‘‘strongly denied’’ Clifford’s allegations.
Labour Inspectorate national manager Stu Lumsden said the inspectorate would be ‘‘closely watching’’ the results of Clifford’s case, particularly the Employment Relations Authority’s (ERA) decision about whether she was a contractor or an employee.
‘‘Should it be demonstrated that she is an employee and not a contractor, we will be following this up with the employer to ensure all their employees receive their minimum entitlements,’’ he said.
Kiwi Strippers sales manager Lexie Annan, a former dancer who has held management roles in the industry, said the fines system was more common than not in clubs.
‘‘I’ve danced all over New Zealand and overseas and fines are commonplace in a lot of strip clubs.’’
The fines covered dress codes, no-shows and lateness. She disliked the system, but understood the rationale of club owners for imposing them.
‘‘I guess they’re using fines to reinforce their point that ‘this is a job’, and to take that seriously,’’ she said.
Annan praised Clifford for speaking up. It was difficult for dancers to do so as they risked never working in the industry again, but felt it would help if dancers objected collectively.
New Zealand Prostitutes’ Collective spokeswoman Catherine Healy said the practice ‘‘suggests a very strongly coercive environment’’.
A former Calendar Girls dancer, who did not want to be named, said she left the business last year due to the overly long hours, the need to produce a medical certificate to avoid incurring a fine, and not being able to work for other clubs or agencies.