wage theft

While conservative governments are constantly making calls to criminalise trade union activities, Geelong Trades Hall Council secretary Colin Vernon says governments should instead be focusing on the real crime wave occurring in our community right now.

The Victorian Branch of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) held its state conference over the weekend of May 26 and 27.

The conference was held amid rising tensions within the Victorian ALP; with several prominent unions including the Construction, Forestry, Mining, Maritime and Energy Union (CFMMEU) splitting from the Socialist Left to form the new “Centre Unity and Industrial Left Alliance” faction with a number of right-wing unions including the Australian Workers Union (AWU).

The owner of a Queensland tour company that underpaid its workers has been jailed by the Federal Court in a contempt of court case brought by the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO). It was the first time a boss had been jailed as a result of action by the FWO.

 

Former staff and United Voice union members protested outside Barry cafe in Northcote’s trendy High Street shopping strip on April 23 after workers said they were sacked for asking to be paid award wages.

The staff say they were paid $18 an hour and no penalty rates for weekends or public holidays. Under the award, the minimum rate should have been $23.51 for weekday shifts and $29.30 for weekends.

In another example of wage theft, the Australian Tax Office (ATO) has revealed that employers have failed to pay superannuation for their staff by an average of $2.81 billion every year between 2009 and 2015: a total of $17 billion.

The worst offenders were small and medium businesses in the construction, retail, food and accommodation sectors.

The ATO has been investigating "the superannuation guarantee gap" — the difference between the 9.5% superannuation guarantee payment required by law and the contributions employers actually make.

Superannuation should provide a comfortable retirement for the several million workers who signed up to the 1983–95 “superannuation revolution” by the ACTU and Hawke-Keating Labor governments. But what should be in a super account to provide a comfortable retirement for this “pioneer” generation?

Compensation paid to 7-Eleven workers by 7-Eleven's head office has so far reached $110 million — an average of $39,000 for each of the 2832 claims by workers who were underpaid by franchisees.

The payout is much greater than fines that could be imposed under existing laws, raising questions about whether the federal government's proposed law to protect vulnerable workers will go far enough in holding similar conduct to account.

The Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) has called for jail terms for employers who deliberately underpay their staff.

TWU national secretary Tony Sheldon said this was “wage theft” and it was time to treat bosses with the same rules as employees.

The call follows a string of scandals at franchise operators 7-Eleven, Caltex, Domino’s Pizza and Pizza Hut, where employees have been underpaid by tens of millions of dollars. 7-Eleven has so far paid out $90 million for non-payment of wages while Caltex has set up a $20 million fund to repay their workers.

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