United Workers Union welcomes the country’s first wage theft laws
The United Workers Union who represent 150,000 workers, including workers in hospitality, cleaning and on farms welcomes the State Government’s new legislation that stands to be the toughest wage theft laws of any state.
Today the Andrews Labor Government has introduced new laws that will see employers who deliberately underpay or don’t pay their workers face up to 10 years jail.
The Wage Theft Bill 2020 will establish new criminal offences for employers who deliberately withhold wages and other employee entitlements.
Tim Kennedy, National Secretary of United Workers Union, said every year, thousands of the lowest paid workers in the country experienced wage theft. For many workers in insecure work, systemic wage theft eats into hard won wages and working conditions and undermines people’s confidence in the law.
“Employers who steal from their staff need to be held accountable and our union welcomes today’s new proposed laws that will apply to wages, allowances, superannuation and other entitlements such as leave. This is a good win for all the union members who have campaigned against wage theft becoming the ‘new normal’.
“However, the only way to eradicate wage theft in all its forms is through the right for workers to form Unions without fear of retribution from employers. Migrant workers on farms and in food processing, young workers who are paid cash in hospitality, and workers in industries like cleaning where shonky subcontracting is rife have been affected by wage theft for too long,” he said.
Tiff Tan, a member of Hospo Voice, the hospitality arm of the United Workers Union, is a hospitality worker who was forced to work for less than $5 an hour.
Tiff was on a student visa when she worked for Hochi Mama and Straight Outta Saigon co-owner Thai Ho.
“I only had a half an hour break, I was tired, exhausted, I would go home and cry, my body was shaking,” Miss Tan said.
“I had a lot of anxiety, I had to pay my rent, I needed money, if I didn’t go to work then I didn’t get anything,” she said.
Putri Nazeri, who came to Australia from Malaysia in August 2016, is a former farm worker who experienced wage theft.
Ms Nazeri said third-party labour-hire companies paid her below the minimum wage – $12.50 an hour at one farm and $15 at another, in cash – while sometimes working long hours at farms in NSW and Victoria which supplies Woolworths.
Ms Nazeri said she was charged $110 a week to stay in rundown accommodation owned by her employer and $10 a day for transport.
“We were very scared to complain, because the contractor controlled everything,” she said.
Strong and effective wage theft laws are important to restore the notion of a ‘fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work’. United Workers Union members will continue to fight to ensure Victorian workers have wage theft laws that deliver outcomes.