“As has been seen with the collapse of the George Calombaris restaurant business, it is the employees who suffer most when what may appear to be a well-meaning campaign gets out of control,” Ai Group Chief Executive, Innes Willox, said today.
“No one supports the very small minority of employers who deliberately underpay workers. However, in the case of George Calombaris, reports point to the underpayments being genuinely in error, and then self-reported and all employees back-paid in full.
“Despite this, the heat put into the issue of wage underpayments through using unnecessarily loaded terms like ‘wage theft’, have had the result of costing more than 400 people their jobs.
“Balance needs to be restored to the wage underpayment discussion given the fact that the vast majority of underpayments are inadvertent and fixed when discovered.
“The unions, in particular, through relentlessly overinflating and politicising the issue and branding employers as ‘thieves’, should bear much of the opprobrium for the sad outcome in the Calombaris case and others.
“The Federal Government has the opportunity in foreshadowed underpayments legislation to deal with the issues sensibly and take the heat out of it.
“There will always be plenty of public critics who pile on (as was the case with George Columbaris) but it is in no one’s interests for employers that have made genuine errors to be forced out of business. If a business does not survive, often those hardest hit will be the employees that lose their jobs.
“Ai Group has been warning for years that anti-business rhetoric has reached fever pitch, risking jobs and investment and Federal and State Governments were supporting a divisive agenda by parroting overly emotive union terms such as ‘wage theft’. That warning has gone unheeded and we are now seeing the consequences in jobs lost and a big employing business ruined.
“Hopefully the Calombaris case will be a clarion call for common sense to prevail and we will see the last of such damaging outcomes,” Mr Willox said.