Today’s announcement of a discussion paper airing the possibility of serious criminal penalties for wage theft is a welcome step forward but does little to address the Morrison government’s appalling track record on the issue.
United Voice, the union for workers in industries exposed to endemic wage theft including hospitality, cleaning and security, believes any moves on wage theft need to overcome six years of Coalition’s indifference and active attacks on workers’ ability to recover their stolen wages.
Jo-anne Schofield, National Secretary of United Voice, says, “In repeated Victorian hospitality industry cases we are seeing investigations into wage theft drag on for years while workers wait for their stolen pay.
“Workers waiting years for justice on wage theft is no system at all, and the government bears responsibility for that.
“We have raised these cases for years - the government’s inaction is once again exposed because the best they have come up with so far is a discussion paper, while Labor state premiers have moved on the issue.
“Overall the Morrison Government’s track record on wage theft is appalling.
“Only yesterday the Morrison Government reintroduced legislation that would effectively clean the slate for employers of wage theft from super accounts estimated by Industry Super Australia to cost workers $5.9 billion a year.”
Ms Schofield said that while criminal sanctions for wage theft was one measure to combat wage theft, other measures needed to be implemented to address years of neglect:
“Laws matter. But unscrupulous employers are already breaking laws.
“The government and employers must recognise that unions are a vital way of ensuring redress for wage theft and the government and bosses must end their constant attacks on workers.
“Union membership and a functioning enterprise agreement are the most effective ways to hold employers to account.
“It’s through union membership that workers ensure they enjoy the rights that the laws provide and can act collectively to defend their pay and conditions in an instant from wage theft.”