Labor’s wage theft crackdown

A Shorten Labor Government will crack down on wage theft by giving workers who are ripped off an efficient and effective avenue to reclaim unpaid wages.

We have seen too many examples of systemic wage theft, but lengthy and costly court proceedings often prevent and deter workers from recovering wage underpayments.

It shouldn’t be too hard, it shouldn’t be too costly, to get what you are owed for a day’s pay.

That’s why a Shorten Labor Government will make it easier to recover wage underpayments with a new low-cost small claims jurisdiction to sit alongside the Fair Work Commission.

The new jurisdiction will be designed so that most claims can be resolved in a single day. It will also be a one-stop shop – able to mediate claims, but also able to make and enforce orders for repayment of wages.

Individual claims up to $100,000 will be able to be brought to members of the jurisdiction. Claims brought forward by group of workers against a single employer will also be permitted.

Members will adjudicate on claims, and will be available for applicants in remote and regional areas, including by video conferencing.

Employer groups and unions will also be able to act on behalf of their members if requested to do so.

To increase the capability of workers and employers to present their cases to the small claims jurisdiction, Labor will expand the Community Engagement Grants Program, currently only utilised by community legal centres, by an additional $3.7 million per annum.

Labor will consult with employers, unions and other stakeholders on the final model of the small claims tribunal, but our aim is to make it more affordable and accessible to bring claims forward.

The Morrison Government doesn’t care about workers and their conditions.

Scandal after scandal has made it clear that workers exploitation and systemic wage theft is widespread – but the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government has failed to act.

The Fair Work Ombudsman recovered just under $30 million in underpayments in 2017-18 and just 35 litigations recovered over $7 million in court-ordered penalties.

But we know the problem is much worse – 2015’s revelations of widespread underpayment in 7-Eleven franchises saw the back payment of over $160 million in entitlements to 3,628 employees who had been underpaid.

Every year, unions recover millions more on behalf of their members who have been underpaid.

Not only does wage theft affect individuals directly exploited, it also undercuts employers who do the right thing and pay their workers properly, while also taking a toll on the broader economy through decreased discretionary spending and consumer confidence.

While the Liberals give the green light to a race to the bottom on wages and conditions for all Australian workers, Labor is committed to protecting wages and conditions by cracking down on worker exploitation.

This announcement builds on Labor’s strong plans to improve the pay and conditions of working Australians, including reversing cuts to penalty rates; protecting Australians from unfair labour hire so that workers doing the same job get the same pay; and making the minimum wage a living wage.

In stark contrast, for almost six years, the Liberals have done nothing to fix insecure work in Australia, denying it is a problem.

This election is a choice between Labor’s plan to restore penalty rates, or bigger tax loopholes for the top end of town under the Liberals.

After six years of Liberal cuts and chaos, our united Labor team is ready to deliver a fair go for all Australians.

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