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United Workers Union welcomes State Government legislation to make wage theft a crime

The union representing Queensland contracting workers, including security, cleaning, hospitality and more, welcomes the State Government’s new legislation to make wage theft a criminal offence.

Today the Palaszczuk Government has announced amendments to the state Criminal Code to tackle wage theft following a Queensland Parliamentary Inquiry.

United Workers Union spokesperson for Property Services Damien Davie said: “This is a step forward in the right direction by the Palaszczuk Labor Government.

“Any changes must ensure wage thieves are being criminally prosecuted – whether the theft is a one off or ongoing, and the individuals who are responsible need to be held to account.

“Offences must extend to the falsification of worker records and the failure to keep worker entitlements.

“United Workers Union members are frequently victims of wage theft, feeling the impact of zombie agreements that are below award, dodgy labour hire operators, sham contracting and missing out on super and entitlements.“United Workers members are calling on the Queensland Government to make significant reform and bring an end to abhorrent employer behaviour.”

Today’s announcement comes a day after United Workers Union members made a submission to the federal inquiry into wage theft in Canberra. The workers called for an end to wage theft becoming the ‘new normal’ and presented solutions to return a culture of compliance to Australian workplaces.

“Scott Morrison and the Federal Coalition’s inaction on wage theft is truly damning. 32 per cent of Australia’s workforce has no access to paid leave. 437,000 Queenslanders are underpaid each year. These are shocking number.

“The Morrison Government are continuing with their anti-worker agenda – they’re taking no action to stop wage theft, actively undermining super, and now as Australian workers face the coronavirus crisis are helping big business get out of paying sick leave,” Damien Davie said.

Whilst Australian workers face uncertainty and financial stress in the face of the coronavirus crisis, the Morrison government has spent more than $250,000 to help a multinational corporation reduce access to sick leave from workers.

The government has also splashed out $280,000 to help a multinational company deny ongoing employees with regular shifts access to sick leave by trying to have them treated as “casuals”.

“The only way to eradicate wage theft in all its forms is for workers to exercise their right to freedom of association, the right to form and join trade unions,” Mr Davie said.

United Workers Union member Maria Hemara who works as a guard in West Brisbane was having thousands stolen in unpaid wages.

“Last year I started working full-time, six days a week. I would work weekends and public holidays – Christmas, New Year and Australia Day and get the same flat rate.

“It took my niece Keri and nephew Michael, who is also in the union, taking a look at my payslips and saying Aunty something’s not right you should get this checked out by the union.

“When I raised this with my boss I felt intimidated. I was told I had been taken care of and asked whether I was a union member. I felt I was being told to shut my mouth. My boss even said I could get an ABN number, suggesting I become a contractor. I just wanted to be paid fairly for my job,” she said.

This is when United Workers Union stepped in and threatened to hold the company accountable through legal action and community protests.

“United Workers Union had my back from the start. I was blown away by how fast they were in getting it sorted.

“I am very happy for my outcome, but I do worry for other workers who are not getting a fair go. Other guards I work with who are not in the union still aren’t getting the correct hourly rate and their penalty rates,” Maria said.

Maria is now being paid her full entitlements, her job is secured and she received a back payment of $15,000.



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A copy of United Workers Union’s submission to the senate can be downloaded here: