A welcome pre-election promise

The ALP has promised to create a “small claims jurisdiction” making it easier to recover lost wages up to $100,000 if it wins this Federal election, says pharmacists’ union

Labor has promised to “crack down on wage theft” by a new low-cost small claims jurisdiction to sit alongside the Fair Work Commission.

This will make it easier to recover lost wages up to $100,000.

The policy has been applauded by Professional Pharmacists Australia (PPA) which points out that currently, claims greater than $20,000 need to be made to either the Federal or Federal Circuit Courts.

“Many of the claims we have handled exceed that amount, so a simpler and more accessible recovery process is a welcome pre-election promise from the Opposition,” says PPA.

It says the process of pursuing a claim can be lengthy.

“Members may be successful in getting an order made, however the various stages of the court process mean it could be over a year before a final order for repayment of wages is made.”

The new jurisdiction would also increase access, as it would be available to employees in remote and regional areas, including via video conferencing.

“The new jurisdiction will be designed so that most claims can be resolved in a single day. It will also be a one-stop shop – able to mediate claims, but also able to make and enforce orders for repayment of wages,” says Brendan O’Connor, Shadow Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations.

“Wage theft takes many forms including unpaid penalty rates, sick leave, annual leave or superannuation. The issue also covers when employees are employed as contractors simply to avoid paying entitlements,” says PPA.

“The term ‘wage theft’ raises eyebrows in politics as scare tactic, or political gamesmanship. However, wage theft is a scary reality for many of our members who have their wages or entitlements withheld,” it says.

“We acknowledge that some incidents happen through error and many employers do the right thing and pay their workers properly. As an organisation, our goal is to stamp out dodgy employers who deliberately underpay their employees, and help employees rectify these issues.”

PPA says pharmacists should be paid fairly for the hours they work.

“Professionals Australia welcomes the promise of a new jurisdiction to make the process more accessible and less formal for employees. Regardless of the election outcome, we will continue to go after unjust employers who deliberately withhold their workers’ pay.”

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