Following the completion of the State Inquiry into Wage Theft in July, the Report based on that inquiry has been released which includes 28 recommendations for both Commonwealth and State governments, proposed by the author of the report, former WA Industrial Relations Commissioner Tony Beech, based on submissions to the Inquiry.
The IEUA WA Branch welcomes the initiative which supports the need for a closer collaboration between unions and employers on educating workers about wage theft and the tools available to them to report it.
A media statement from the McGowan acknowledges that “the likelihood of wage theft is higher in cafés and restaurants, contract cleaning, retail and horticulture.
“Wage theft can have a significant impact on workers through financial hardship and can result in an unfair competitive disadvantage for employers who correctly pay their staff.
“The Inquiry found that the reasons that wage theft is occurring include the lack of detection of non-compliance and enforcement of employment laws, the intention of some employers to maximise financial return, the vulnerability of some workers and a lack of knowledge of employment conditions by both workers and employers”
In response, the McGowan Government intends to take action to combat wage theft through a range of strategies consistent with the recommendations of the Inquiry.
- Establishing a wage theft website at www.wagetheft.wa.gov.au which provides information for West Australian workers in both the State and national industrial relations systems on:
- how to seek assistance with resolving an underpayment issue or unpaid leave;
- how to report wage theft anonymously to the relevant government department; and
- how to seek help with unpaid superannuation.
- As recommended, giving further consideration as to whether wage theft should be criminalised. This will include consultation with the Commonwealth, which has committed to criminalise the most serious forms of exploitative conduct in the national industrial relations system.
Supporting the need to develop effective information campaigns in consultation with unions and employers and the other recommendations in the Inquiry Report for information and education initiatives to combat wage theft.
- Supporting legislative change to enhance the level of cooperation and information sharing between the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety and the Fair Work Ombudsman.
- Engaging with the Commonwealth Government on a range of issues to address wage theft, including federal measures to facilitate cooperation between State and federal industrial inspectors and seeking greater funding for the Fair Work Ombudsman’s presence in Western Australia.
- Committing in principle to a labour hire licensing scheme in Western Australia and consulting with the Commonwealth, which has committed to a national labour hire registration scheme for the horticulture, meat processing, cleaning and security industries.
- Supporting amendments to State industrial laws which include:
- broader powers for industrial inspectors
- in the case of wage theft:
- the ability for a successful claimant in enforcement proceedings to recover costs for the services of a lawyer or agent
- the Western Australian Industrial Relations Commission to be given the power to award interest on a denied contractual benefit and a general power to make any order it considers appropriate
- a prohibition on:
- employers unreasonably requiring employees to spend, or “pay back” to the employer, their wages
- employers discriminating against employees because they have inquired or complained about their employment conditions
- employment being advertised at less than the applicable minimum wage for the position
- sham contracting arrangements
- Commitment to bolstering the Industrial Magistrates Court’s processes and powers to combat wage theft.
- Seeking funding from the Commonwealth for the Industrial Magistrates Court as most matters dealt with by the Industrial Magistrates Court arise under from the national system and the Commonwealth does not currently contribute to its funding.
- Commitment to strengthening procurement processes, particularly in high risk industries. Consultation will occur with relevant stakeholders to progress this issue.
- Recognising that to combat wage theft there needs to be an appropriate resourcing of industrial inspectors and educational services.via email
We welcome the actions of the McGowan Government and look forward to their progress in this most insidious form of theft.