I have seen devastating cases of wage theft that have left local families in financial and emotional turmoil.
Wage theft takes many forms, including the underpayment of wages, unpaid super, unpaid penalty rates, unauthorised deductions from pays, unpaid work trials, the misuse of ABNs and sham contracting.
Local families with husbands and wives in all kinds of jobs have not been immune to what I am calling criminal wage-taking behaviour.
Making the problem even worse is that the Federal regulator does not have the resources to do the job properly and workers often feel powerless to reclaim their lost entitlement.
The Palaszczuk Government asked the Queensland Parliament’s Education, Employment and Small Business committee to undertake an inquiry into wage theft in Queensland.
The committee heard evidence that wage theft was taking place across a wide cross-section of the Queensland economy, including the security, hospitality, transport, construction and childcare industries.
The inquiry found that wage theft is affecting around 437,000, or one-in-five, Queensland workers and costing more than $1 billion every year. That’s $1 billion that’s missing from family budgets and that doesn’t flow to local businesses and the wider economy.
The inquiry also found the annual loss associated with the underpayment or non-payment of superannuation was estimated at $1.12 billion.
The committee made 17 recommendations aimed at eliminating wage theft and ensuring workers get a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.
The Palaszczuk Government has accepted, or accepted in principle, all of the recommendations.
Six of the recommendations are within the Queensland Government’s jurisdiction and include:
• providing better public information and education,
• ensuring our procurement policies allow for action to the taken against employers that have underpaid workers,
• taking action to ensure that wage recovery processes for Queensland workers are simple, quick and low-cost.
The committee also recommended that wage theft in deliberate or reckless cases be criminalised at a state level, a move supported by many stakeholders from both employers and unions who appeared before the Inquiry.
Eleven of the seventeen recommendations made in the report are matters for the Federal Government to consider, so I am keen to hear this come up locally during the Federal election.