28 February 2019

The Centre for Future Work’s Troy Henderson has some ideas about stamping out wage theft. In addition to more wage inspectors and making wage theft a crime, he rightly identifies collective action by workers as the mechanism that will make the difference: “Restoring unions’ rights to visit workplaces, request pay records, and take quick action to ensure correct wages are being paid would be another step forward. Speaking of unions, more collective representation for vulnerable workers would both help them to detect wage theft, and then stand up to it without fear of reprisal: it’s no coincidence that underpayment occurs most often in the least unionised industries. And we should systematically educate young people (starting in high school) and migrant workers (through migrant services, universities and adult education) about their rights in the workplace. They need to know what they are entitled to, and how to take action if they are being ripped off. Once upon a time unions were invited into schools to do precisely that — but in the current climate of union-bashing, they are no longer welcome in most states.”