The strength of the TWU (Vic/Tas Branch) has been proven once again after the Wage Theft Urgency Resolution put to last year’s 2017 ALP State Conference by TWU (VIC/TAS Branch) Secretary John Berger will become law under a re-elected Labor Government.
Premier Daniel Andrews announced at today’s 2018 ALP State Conference that employers who deliberately underpay or don’t pay their workers will face up to 10 years jail under new laws that will make wage theft a criminal offence should they win this year’s State Election.
John put the Resolution to last year’s Conference on behalf of all workers and because wage theft is particularly rife across the transport industry.
“Too many Victorians are being exploited by unscrupulous employers, the TWU wins back many thousands of dollars each and every year for our members. But there must be greater deterrants than the current slap on the wrist and, hopefully, these laws will make dodgy bosses think twice before ripping off workers, many who don’t have the backing of a Union and are unable to defend themselves,” John said.
“I am extremely proud of this Union for putting these laws on the table and congratulate the Andrews Government for recognising the need to change how we tackle what is a big, a growing and, all too often, a hidden issue in many workplaces.”
Wage theft offences will be investigated and prosecuted by the Victorian Wage Inspectorate – a new employment watchdog the Labor Government is establishing to promote fair industrial relations practices and better education, compliance and enforcement of state-based employment laws.
The Inspectorate will have resources to enforce owner-driver laws and will also oversee labour hire licencing and enforcement, and establish portable long service leave for contract cleaning, community services and security industry workers.
Under the proposed new laws, employers who deliberately withhold wages, superannuation or other employee entitlements, falsify employment records, or fail to keep employment records will face fines of up to $190,284 for individuals, $951,420 for companies and up to 10 years jail.
To make sure employers follow court orders, an automatic enforcement model will be introduced that puts the onus on the employer to demonstrate they have complied with orders and paid the entitlements owed to workers.
ALSO ANNOUNCED TODAY – employers whose negligence leads to the death of an employee will face up to 20 years in jail and fines of over $15 million under tough new laws under a re-elected Labor Government.
Up to 30 people are killed at work in Victoria every year – this is 30 deaths too many.
The transport industry has sadly suffered the most workplace deaths for many years. These laws will ensure more transport workers survive, simple as that. The TWU has been been part of union movement push for these laws and welcomes today’s announcement made at the ALP State Conference.
The penalty is strong enough deterrent to make employers take workplace safety seriously, and not rely on deep pockets to avoid accountability while cutting corners on safety.
The wage theft resolution called for a “clearer and tougher deterrent to employers stealing from the pay-checks of their staff, through wage underpayment and superannuation non-payment”. The move at the Victorian Labor State Conference follows exposés of companies which have chronically underpaid their employees.
“Available remedies for those caught underpaying are currently confined to voluntary payments, mediation, and letters of caution, court orders and fines. This system encourages unscrupulous employers to see what they can get away with and is not keeping with the expectations of modern Australia,” said John.
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. Dominos has said is has returned $4.5 million to its workers that it underpaid.
“In transport, wage theft has created financial pressure on truck drivers that ultimately kills people,” John said.
A 2008 report by Australia’s National Transport Commission found evidence ‘linking payment levels and systems to crashes, speeding, driving while fatigued and drug use.
There is also a problem with non-payment of superannuation. A report by Industry Super Australia shows in 2013-2014 employers failed to pay $5.6 billion in super payments. The report shows transport was identified as one of the worst industries for non-payment of super.