Wage theft ‘running rampant’

The employee pharmacists’ union has spoken out on wage theft, urging pharmacists to keep an eye on their wages and conditions

Professional Pharmacists’ Australia (PPA) this week congratulated the Andrews Labor Government on its landslide victory in Victoria last weekend.

It also highlighted that one of Labor’s election promises was establishing up to 10 years’ jail time for employers committing the most serious offences when it comes to wage theft.

“In many Australian corporations and businesses, wage theft is running rampant,” says the union.

“On average, PPA typically receives one or two requests for assistance recovering payments every week. Last year alone, we recovered a total of $1.2 million in lost wages.

“Our experience indicates that many pharmacists have been intimidated out of pursuing these claims. Hence this figure is so high.

“Making wage theft a crime and speeding up court processes for enforcement will help us stamp out the practice of ripping off pharmacists.

PPA encouraged pharmacists to remain vigilant about their wages and conditions and recommended employees have their terms and conditions of employment confirmed in writing by their employer prior to starting work.

It says that wage theft can appear in a number of forms, including:

  • The lack of a written contract.
  • Employment as an ‘independent contractor’ but being treated like a regular employee.
  • Not being paid superannuation, sick leave or annual leave. 
  • Having to reimburse employers after employees have been paid. 
  • Payslips that do not show super and/or tax.
  • Not feeling entitled to unpaid penalty rates.

While Victoria will become the first Australian jurisdiction to criminalise wage theft, the practice is under growing scrutiny around the country.

This month Queensland’s Education, Employment and Small Business Committee released the report into its inquiry on the subject: A fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work: Exposing the true cost of wage theft in Queensland.

“The committee travelled across Queensland, holding 24 hearings, receiving evidence from more than 100 witnesses, 360 survey respondents, and 49 written submitters,” wrote Committee chair Leanne Linard MP in her foreword to the report.

“Overwhelmingly, the committee heard that wage theft is imposing significant costs on Queensland workers, their families, businesses and the economy.

“Conservative estimates suggest that over 437,000 Queensland workers are not receiving their full wages, and that a resulting five percent loss in income for these individuals would amount to an aggregate $1.22 billion loss annually.

“In terms of superannuation, the annual loss associated with the underpayment or non-payment of superannuation has been estimated at $1.12 billion.

“The committee heard that affected workers feel powerless to reclaim their lost wages and entitlements, and have been largely left alone to do so by an under resourced federal regulatory system.

“We can and must do more.”

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