We need wage theft laws now

A pre-election campaign to raise the need for laws against wage theft in Victoria is being directed at Liberal Party leader Matthew Guy. There is a petition out now, and you can sign it via this Megaphone link.

Everyone deserves a ob they can count on. And no-one deserves to have their hard-earned wages stolen by their boss.

We want the Victorian government to add a clause to the Crimes Act (1958) which makes deliberate, dishonest wage theft a crime punishable by a term of imprisonment.

Daniel Andrews has committed to introduce wage theft laws. Now we’re calling on Matthew Guy to step up and protect young workers by making the same commitment.

Why is this important?

Right now, some businesses are exploiting young workers. Instead of contributing to our community, they’re stealing from vulnerable young people, and conditioning them for a life of exploitation.

I was one of those young workers. I worked for a year at a cafe in Camberwell, just outside of the Melbourne CBD. During my time there, I was classified as a part-time worker. That means I should have had regular shifts and access to paid annual and sick leave – but instead I was treated as a casual, at the cafe’s beck and call, and had no access to paid leave.

Over $8000 in wages and $700 in superannuation were withheld from me by my boss in just a year – and it took months of negotiations and a review of my full roster history to get the wages I claimed back paid to me.

I’m just one of thousands. Wage theft is an epidemic. At least a fifth of young workers have reported that their hard-earned wages have been stolen from them in scams; they are paid for fewer hours than they work, are illegally denied correct pay, have their superannuation stolen or their accrued leave withheld.

All these forms of wage theft are against the law, but they still happen. Bosses know that they’ll only receive fines or warnings if they get caught- and that they’re not likely to get caught.

A series of audits by Fair Work in 2016 revealed that almost 58% of hospitality businesses (cafes and restaurants) and 39% of retail businesses were stealing wages. That’s potentially hundreds of thousands of cases of wage theft! But only a fraction of these cases ever end up in court. It shows that the current legal system is stacked in favour of bad employers who choose to underpay workers to increase their profits.

 

 

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