WA to probe wage theft

The union for employee pharmacists has welcomed an inquiry into wage theft

Last week, the Western Australian Government announced that it would begin an inquiry into wage theft in February, examining the incidence and impact of the practice.

In a statement, the McGowan Government said that wage theft is “the systematic and deliberate underpayment of wages and entitlements to a worker”. It says that Australian workers are reportedly underpaid more than $1 billion in lost wages each year.

The inquiry will consider whether there is evidence of wage theft occurring in Western Australia, the reasons behind it and the impact on workers, business and the community.

It will also look at the current regulatory framework at a State and Federal level, and recommend strategies to combat wage theft and assist affected workers.

The inquiry report and recommendations will be provided to the state government by June 2019.

“The McGowan Government is committed to ensuring there is a fair safety net of wages and entitlements for all workers,” said Industrial Relations Minister Bill Johnston.

“Workers should not be denied their legal pay and entitlements through employers engaging in wage theft.

“I encourage workers affected by wage theft, stakeholders and the community to get involved in the inquiry so that practical strategies can be developed to combat this issue.”

PPA is encouraging employee pharmacists who feel they have been subject to wage theft to speak out.

“Professional Pharmacists Australia welcomes the WA government inquiry and we encourage our members based in WA to make a submission into the inquiry,” it says.

PPA also pointed out that wage theft takes a number of forms, including a lack of written contracts; workers being employed as a contractor, but treated as an employee; payslips which do not refer to superannuation and/or tax; and a lack of sick or annual leave.

It cites the example of the recent inquiry into the issue in Queensland, in which it was found that one in four workers in the state were affected.

This inquiry recommended that the government provide better public information, education and policies that allow underpaid workers to take action against their employers and ensure an efficient and low-cost wage recovery process.

Meanwhile in Victoria, the state government has suggested reforms including fines of more than $150,000 for bosses and $950,000 for businesses which have been found to deliberately withhold wages, superannuation or other entitlements; and also suggested potential jail time for employers.

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