7 December 2021

Bernard Keane [$]: “Consider the extent of wage theft: The remarkable diversity of organisations involved: large retail employers Bunnings, Target, Super Retail Group, 7-Eleven, Subway and Ampol; the Commonwealth Bank, NAB, Westpac, the ABC, Monash, Melbourne, UNSW and Sydney universities; prominent law firms, prominent restaurateurs; Crown, a host of smaller retailers, NGO Red Cross, Optus, IBM, Telstra, Regis Healthcare, the Australian Sports Commission; The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) announced last week it had started legal action against Coles, claiming it had underpaid 7500 employees a total of $115 million between January 2017 and March 2020; that follows the FWO taking Woolworths to court in June over its $390 million (including interest) underpayment of staff; the Finance Sector Union today revealed it will launch a major court action against NAB in relation to wage underpayment and unpaid overtime… Nearly 90% of job ads in foreign languages specified below-award rates of pay, according to a Unions NSW survey… The steadily mounting evidence shows that Australia’s economic history of the last decade must be re-evaluated: wage theft has not been an incidental, occasional feature of the industrial relations system, but a key, intentional characteristic of Australian industrial relations that has had a significant positive impact on corporate profitability and significant negative impact on household income, directly through lower wages and indirectly through pressure on wage growth. … [A]ny economic policy or analysis that fails to recognise wage theft is a design feature of the Australian economy is wilfully blind.”