Young workers’ rights on the agenda
A parliamentary inquiry into wage theft has revealed systemic problems, with young workers particularly vulnerable to exploitation and underpayment at work.
While recent high profile wage theft cases such as those at 7/11, Caltex, Domino’s and Pizza Hut franchises have increasingly shed a light on poor employer practices, the Queensland Parliamentary Inquiry into Wage Theft is attempting to provide a systemic response.
Young workers unite to fight wage theft
While the parliamentary inquiry continues, young workers are joining together in a new network, the Young Workers Hub (YWH) to educate and empower vulnerable workers to speak up about wage theft.
Siva, a member of the YWH, spoke about being underpaid by $11 per hour for nearly two years, costing her almost $18,000 because she was worried that speaking up would mean losing her job.
Due to union assistance, Siva is now receiving backpay.
YWH member Martin De Rooy said the majority of young people are not aware of their workplace rights or do not feel comfortable speaking up about exploitation.
“Young workers also aren’t taught how to read a pay slip; how to check they’re being paid correctly; how to check their super is being paid,” Mr De Rooy told news.com.au
YWH is seeking to educate young people about their workplace rights with a pilot program of school visits to inform senior secondary students about their rights as employees and how to check if they are being paid correctly.
YWH is supported by the Queensland Council of Unions.
Broken industrial laws fuel wage theft
Current industrial laws place too much power in the hands of employers and make it far too difficult for employees to pursue underpayment as it often involves costly legal action.
In 2017, a Senate committee reported that in a single year (2013-2014) employers failed to pay $5.6 billion dollars in superannuation contributions to 2.76 million workers.
This figure does not take into account unpaid or underpaid regular hours, penalty rates, overtime or leave entitlements.
IEUA-QNT Assistant Secretary Brad Hayes said the majority of workers are tired of inadequate industrial laws that fail them and provide no effective means to address wage theft.
“When celebrity chefs and many other unprincipled employers can deny employees millions of dollars in entitlements and face little to no consequences, we know the system is broken.”
“We must change the rules, starting with our industrial laws, to strengthen protections for workers and ensure each and every Australian receives a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work.”