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Ending wage theft: eradicating underpayment in the Australian workplace

Employee protection Wages Trade unions Wage theft Industrial relations Australia

In recent reports, the McKell Institute has sought to quantify the economic impacts of wage theft on workers in Queensland and South Australia. It has identified the considerable economic cost of wage theft, and demonstrated it is likely impacting hundreds of thousands of workers across Australia. This report seeks to take a broad look at which workers are most vulnerable to wage-theft and what can be done to fix it.

It paints a clear picture of why we need to change the complacent attitudes that have allowed wage theft to be overlooked. It argues that that ending wage theft isn’t just about protecting those directly affected, but all of us: wage theft is bad for workers, it is bad for the majority of compliant businesses, it places a handbrake on wage growth, and ultimately leaves the taxpayer out of pocket as slower consumer spending diminishes government returns.

This report tables a suite of recommendations including actions that can be taken by state and territory governments and not just the Commonwealth.

It places a greater emphasis on helping private enforcement actions by unions, lawyers and employer groups to be more effective rather than simply relying on government agencies with limited budgets, as well as other ideas, like rewarding the individual whistleblowers that put their careers on the line to help workers who have been wronged.

There is obviously much more that needs to be done to get wages growing for everyone, but making sure all workers get what they’re already entitled to is a critical first step to restoring fairness and dignity at work

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