May 16, 2017

Jail employers over wage theft, TWU demands

The Union will demand that governments of all political persuasions hold employers to account over wage theft, TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon will say. The Union will seek support from the Labor Party to change the law to ensure wage theft by employers throughout the supply chain is made an offence.

“When a boss steals from workers it’s quaintly referred to as ‘underpayment’. They may reach a settlement with the Fair Work Ombudsman to repay the money. Worst comes to worst, companies will simply be asked to pay back what they owe. This is actually an incentive for employers to see what they can get away with,” Sheldon will tell the TWU National Council in a speech at 9.30am in Fremantle.


“Malcolm Turnbull needs to be called out on his vow to make unions as accountable as employers. We support firm action against rogue elements in our ranks and businesses. Union officials face jail terms, therefore employers should also be held accountable to the same level with jail terms if they steal from the pay-packets of their employees,” he will say.


The call for jail terms for employers follows exposés of chronic wage theft in Caltex and 7-Eleven. 7-Eleven has so far paid out $90 million for non-payment of wages while Caltex has set up a $20 million fund to repay their workers.


The speech also criticizes employers who “game the system and rort our industrial laws” by forcing through substandard enterprise agreements on staff. Sheldon gives the example of aviation company Aerocare, whose employees are forced to sleep at the airport and in their cars because of low wages and split shifts.


A new agreement was recently voted on by employees “intimidated by an internal voting system that was neither open nor transparent. The company even admitted there would be ‘no scrutineers’ of the voting process,” he will say.


A new Emirates Group company, Airport Services Handling Australia, tried to get approval for an enterprise agreement with similar conditions to Aerocare that was voted on by just two employees, he adds. The company withdrew this agreement just last Friday, “indicating they knew only too well what they were doing was wrong, if not illegal”.


The speech will be delivered at the TWU National Council which is addressing the crisis across the transport industry, including low pay, poor conditions, mental health risks and high injury and fatalities rates. On Thursday, there will be a full day of sessions on the future of work for transport workers in the new economy.


Keynote speeches during the week will include State Premier Mark McGowan, Labor Party transport and infrastructure spokesman Anthony Albanese, ACTU Secretary Sally McManus and TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon.


Media enquiries: Judith Crosbie 0432552895

A full version of the speech is available here.

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