Workers ripped off $1.2b each year
MORE than 400,000 Queensland workers are being ripped off by their employers to the tune of $1.2 billion a year, a State Government committee into wage theft has found.
One in four Queensland workers in industries as diverse as hospitality, security, trades, child care and fruit and vegetable picking are missing out on penalty rates, being paid less than the correct hourly rate, unfairly being docked pay or being exploited through unpaid work trials, the committee formed by the Palaszczuk Government found in its report released yesterday.
On top of the missing wages, another $1.1 billion in superannuation was also going unpaid, it found.
Among 17 recommendations, the committee has called for wage theft to be legislated as a criminal offence and called for a Federal review into wage theft.
It also wants the Fair Entitlements Guarantee scheme opened up to overseas workers who have been ripped off.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk used the committee report's finding to call on the Federal Government to give workers more protection.
"In the past 12 to 18 months, we've seen a number of high-profile wage thefts, particularly by franchisees and those in the agricultural labour hire industry," Ms Palaszczuk said.
"The inquiry found that wage theft is affecting around 437,000, or one-in-four, Queensland workers and costing $1.2 billion every year. That's $1.2 billion that's missing from family budgets and that doesn't flow to local businesses and the wider economy.
"Employers cannot and must not shirk their responsibility to pay their staff what they are owed.
"Wage theft takes many forms, including the underpayment of wages, unpaid super, unpaid penalty rates, unauthorised deductions from pay, unpaid work trials, the misuse of ABNs and sham contracting.
"Compounding the problem is that workers often feel powerless to reclaim their lost entitlements."
But in a dissenting view, LNP members of the committee Jann Stuckey and Simone Wilson said there was no need for special wage theft crime legislation and the inquiry had been forced to avoid looking into the State Government's own wage bungles, such as the Queensland Health payroll disaster.
"There are already existing criminal code offences that are sufficient and should be enforced," the LNP pair wrote.
"Anyone who deliberately underpays workers needs to face the consequences of their actions.
"As we said from the outset, the LNP fundamentally believes that workers deserve to be paid what they are entitled to, however this inquiry was politically motivated and not inclusive of workers controlled by the Queensland Government."
Federal Minister for Jobs and Industrial Relations Kelly O'Dwyer said the Government had "no tolerance for any employers failing to meet their obligations to employees under workplace laws".
"All employers should do the right thing and ensure their employees receive their full entitlements," she said.