Stealing is wrong, and yet every year thousands of Australian workers are robbed. They are the victims of wage theft.
Wage theft is when an employer deliberately withholds wages or entitlements such as superannuation from their workers.
Terms like “underpayment,” “oversight,” or “error” used by employers create a sense that this is some kind of victimless accident.
Wage theft is no accident: it is a business model for many Australian employers. And it is not victimless: it affects thousands of Australian workers every year.
According to Industry Super Australia, one-third of eligible Australian workers are having their super stolen from them.
This is around $3.6 billion a year in theft of superannuation alone.
Wage theft can happen anywhere, but is particularly common in industries such as hospitality.
So what can we do about it?
The current laws for employers make wage theft too easy, and the punishments are too light.
Unions like United Voice represent their members in the industrial system if they have not been paid their correct wages or entitlements.
But this isn’t a sustainable solution.
Recovering wages through the courts is difficult, and often takes a long time.
To make wage theft a thing of the past, we need to Change the Rules.
In May this year the Victorian government pledged to introduce jail terms for wage theft, which could see employers face up to 10 years in prison, and their businesses could be fined up to $950,000.
To establish tougher wage theft penalties across Australia, we need to join together and put pressure on the Government.
What to do if you have been affected by wage theft
If you think your employer has stolen your wages or entitlements, contact the United Voice Members Rights Centre on
1800 825 468.