22 October 2019

If you want to know how wage theft became a business model, you need to consider the role of business advisers — including the big corporate law firms that represent the pillars of industry. New requirements in the industrial award that covers paralegals and junior lawyers will require basic record-keeping of hours worked [$], to make the annualised salary scam harder to get away with. Law firms typically require employees to record their time in 6-minute increments, so you might expect this to be a simple fix… but no: “Several senior partners privately dismissed the effect of the changes, however, predicting no graduate lawyer was going to complain about unpaid hours because they will be grateful for the job.” In other words, they are deliberately exploiting vulnerable junior employees. Is there any wonder the businesses they advise take a similarly cavalier approach to wage theft? Linda White, assistant secretary of the Australian Services Union, has put these firms on notice: “The law’s okay for everyone else except lawyers?If I was a senior partner in a law firm I wouldn’t sit back and think no one’s going to enforce it. The winds of change are around. People can get organised and if you push them far enough they will get organised. They are not without power.” Junior legal staff should join the ASU immediately.