Wage Theft: The exploitation of workers is widespread and has become a business model

Wage Theft: The exploitation of workers is widespread and has become a business model

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ACTU Key Recommendations

Our industrial laws are in need of a serious overhaul. Some elements of that overhaul should include the following points below but this is by no means an exhaustive list:

  • It needs to be much easier for workers and their representatives to enforce laws and recover stolen wages. The Fair Work Act currently requires a lengthy and expensive process just to enforce your rights via court proceedings.
  • Unions need stronger investigation and compliance rights. There are 12 million workers across Australia. Australian unions have thousands of trained officers and staff, yet the Fair Work Act now restricts unions from conducting workplace checks on businesses suspected of underpaying and exploiting workers. The rules need to change so that it is easier for Unions to conduct workplace checks.
  • The ACTU would like to see improvements to and the penalties increased for serious contraventions of prescribed workplace rights and worker protections, including for acts of anti-union discrimination and to protect workers from adverse action if they question or enforce a workplace right on behalf of themselves or other employees. Combined with a more easily accessible enforcement mechanism, these measures will act as a greater deterrence for these breaches of workplace laws.
  • Stop sham contracting. The ACTU fears that the trend towards bogus or sham contracting will continue in the coming decades unless the Federal Government reforms our workplace laws. Legislation against sham contracting should be tightened
  • There needs to be greater accountability for domestic supply chains by establishing a national licensing and regulation scheme for the labour hire industry. Especially given that compared to other employers, labour hire businesses carry a higher risk of being involved in wage theft, particularly via activities that breach the Fair Work Act. There must be changes to the laws to prevent employers from outsourcing their labour requirements to labour hire companies or contractors in order to cut the wages of employees and side step the enterprise agreements for the pay and conditions of those employees. This open practice of corporate avoidance of established agreements, by outsourcing to third parties, is driving down wages by locking out employees from being able to negotiate for their fair share of the value they create for the business.
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