Executive Summary

Wage theft has reached epidemic proportions. No worker should ever have their wages stolen, yet it is a widespread and increasingly commonplace occurrence.

This submission will show that the circumstances and causes which give rise to wage theft are complex and multi-variate.

The environment in which wage theft has thrived is one where there has been a continuing policy failure to empower the social institution most capable of addressing the crisis – the union movement – to do so. Trade unions need greater powers to enter workplaces, obtain information and, investigate employer compliance, in order to be able to identify and resolve instances of wage theft.  

The present system does not lend itself to resolving wage theft where it occurs and is detected. The FWC does not have vested in it the jurisdiction to deal with wage theft, the courts are expensive and inaccessible to ordinary workers and, there is no dedicated Commonwealth industrial court.

The current penalties for wage theft are inadequate and do not have sufficient deterrent effect.

There is no single measure which will fix the wage theft crisis. Accordingly, this submission makes a number of recommendations, all of which are needed to put in place a system of regulation and associated compliance which will help workers and their unions in addressing wage theft, rather than stifling their ability to do so.