Labor sets up Senate inquiry into wage & superannuation theft

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Labor has set up a Senate inquiry into wage and superannuation theft, including its cost to the national economy and the most effective way of recovering these entitlements.

Labor Senators have been successful in referring wage and superannuation theft to a Senate Committee for inquiry.

The Senate Economics References Committee will inquire into the “causes, extent and effects of unlawful non-payment or underpayment of employees’ remuneration by employers and measures that can be taken to address the issue”. This includes the “the forms of and reasons for wage theft and whether it is regarded by some businesses as ‘a cost of doing business’”; “the cost of wage and superannuation theft to the national economy”; and how wage and superannuation theft can be uncovered and recovered.

The inquiry is due to report in June 2020.

Labor Shadow Minister for Industrial Relations Tony Burke said the inquiry is a “win for Australian workers”.

“It will help the Parliament develop ways to stop employers ripping off their staff, and ensure workers get what they are owed.”

“For half a decade now Labor has been calling on the Liberals to do something about worker underpayment, whether it occurs as a result of genuine payroll error or deliberate, systematic wage theft.”

“But despite scandal after scandal – from 7/11 in 2014 to Woolworths just a few weeks ago – the Government has refused to act.”

“Scott Morrison simply does not take wage compliance seriously. And by failing to act on this issue, his Government has sent the message to businesses that they don’t need to take it seriously either.”

“Wage theft doesn’t just hurt those workers who are underpaid. It also has an impact on our economy, as people put off spending and struggle with stagnating wages.”

“Labor wants a system in which wage theft is properly deterred, and if it happens it’s uncovered quickly and workers are repaid swiftly.”

“This inquiry will help us achieve that aim – but only if the Government starts taking this issue seriously.”

But Liberal Senator Jonathon Duniam labelled the inquiry a “talkfest”, and said it was “entirely unnecessary”.

“The government has zero tolerance for any exploitation of workers.”

“Now is the time for action. We know the issues, we have seen the evidence and it is this government that is actually doing something about it.”

“We have given the regulators more funding and more powers. We have increased the penalties for non-compliance. We have laws before the Senate to prevent the improper use of worker benefits and to recover unpaid superannuation.”

The Government currently has legislation before Parliament to give employers who haven’t paid Super Guarantee for their workers an amnesty. This comes after passing legislation earlier in 2019 which could see employers who don’t pay super for their employees sent to jail.

Labor Senators on the inquiry into the SG amnesty Bill recommended that it be opposed.

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