Coming in the middle of cross-examination of banking bosses at the Royal Commission and just days after food delivery giant Foodora admitted it had underpaid its delivery riders for years, the TWU criticised the system which is refusing to hold corporations to account.
“Our system holds a neon banner up to banks and bosses stating they can go right ahead ripping people off. Banks have been allowed to take money from dead customers and force people to lose their homes by selling them loans they could never hope to repay. Companies for years steal from their workers, refuse them superannuation, sick days and leave them to sit at home and rot without pay when they get injured on the job. This is all done right under the noses of regulators with no question of jail terms or mandatory fines being imposed. Bosses can even kill a worker by putting them into a truck with faulty brakes and bald tyres, yet the system will struggle to charge and convict. This points to a sick system which is constructed to work for the few to the detriment of the majority,” said TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine.
“We appealed the extraordinary fine of over $270,000 imposed by the Federal Court regarding the membership records of three branches over five years ago. This fine was excessively severe and did not reflect the overall judgment of the court. The witch-hunt of unions must end. We cannot have a situation where the representatives of working families are subject to more severe fines and penalties than businesses and banks. We must change the rules to ensure there are actual deterrents to taking people’s money – whether it is out of their bank accounts or their pay packets,” he added.
The TWU has been successful in winning support through resolutions within the ALP for employers to face jail terms when they persistently engage in wage theft.
The Federal Court’s civil penalties relate to matters arising more than five years ago and involved a conflict between state and federal law over legal requirements regarding the keeping of membership records. Since then, the Union has overhauled its systems and now comfortably exceeds governance and disclosure required by the regulator. The Federal Court today acknowledged the TWU had been denied “procedural fairness” and reduced the fine.