Senate committee to deliver report on underpayment of Australian workers in 2021

Unions Tasmania says civil penalities for wage theft need to be implemented and a new Industrial Court established to help stamp out the behaviour.

In a submission to a Senate inquiry on unlawful underpayment of employees’ remuneration, Unions Tasmania secretary Jessica Munday said non-payment or underpayment of superannuation was a common issue.

An Industry Super Australia report in 2018 estimated 57,400 Tasmanian workers were not being paid the correct rate of super or not being paid super at all.

The average underpayment of superannuation was $1775 and underpayment affected 31.9 per cent of all eligible workers.

Ms Munday said the union had received complaints from workers about unpaid super despite an amount being detailed on their pay slips.

Employers are required to contribute the minimum 9.5 per cent of an employee’s ordinary earnings before the 28th day after the end of each quarter.

She said underpayment of wages affected Tasmanian workers more than their mainland counterparts given the state had the lowest full-time adult average weekly earnings in the country.

The national average was $1659 a week while the average Tasmanian workers earned $1420 a week.

Ms Munday said unpaid overtime was a frequent complaint amongst union members in both the private and public sector.

She said unpaid overtime could range from employees being expected to commence work-related duties before a shift or expected to work beyond their finish time without being paid.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry submitted to the committee that underpayment was a complex issue driven by multiple factors.

It said Australia had one of the most complex workplace relations systems of any country in the world, highlighting there was a difference between wage theft and accidental underpayment of wages through mistakes, misinterpretations or miscalculations.

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