Australia: Employers underpaying workers could face jail under proposed labour law reforms

Author: Adele Ferguson, The Sydney Morning Herald, Published on: 6 March 2019

"Bosses who underpay their workers to face jail", 7 March 2019

Employers that deliberately underpay their workers could face a stint in prison as part of a radical national suite of reforms designed to stamp out worker exploitation and systemic wage fraud plaguing industries across the country.

The 22 proposed reforms, outlined in a report to the federal government by the Migrant Workers' Taskforce...include a root and branch review of the work place regulator, stiffer penalties and improved remediation processes for underpaid workers.

The report also called for the government to establish a national registration scheme to track labour hire firms, particularly in the high-risk industries of horticulture, meat processing, cleaning and security. The scheme would have the power to cancel registrations if the labour hire firm is caught breaking the law.

Other recommendations include banning employers from employing visa holders for a specified period if they have been convicted in court of underpaying foreign visa holders.

The inquiry was sparked by a spate of underpayment scandals exposed by the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age including at well known companies such as 7-Eleven, Domino's Pizza, Pizza Hut, United Petroleum, Appco, Caltex and Retail Food Group.

...Professor Allan Fels, who spearheaded the migrant taskforce and co-wrote the report with Professor David Cousins, the deputy chair of the taskforce, said wage fraud was widespread and had become more entrenched over time.

He said the implementation of all 22 recommendations would make a significant difference to worker exploitation.

...He said it was worse than consumer exploitation and in the more egregious cases needed the full force of the law, including prison sentences.

"Wage exploitation of temporary migrants offends our national values of fairness," he says in the report.

Workers reveal the systemic wage abuse they suffered at 7-Eleven stores around the country.

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Related companies: 7-Eleven Pty (Australia) Appco Caltex Domino's Pizza Pizza Hut (part of YUM!) Retail Food Group United Petroleum