28 July 2017

Media Release

In a major move that confirms Labor’s timeless commitment to protect working people, NSW Labor has unveiled a comprehensive plan to eliminate the exploitation of vulnerable workers, starting with a pledge to criminalise wage theft.

Unscrupulous employers that routinely exploit their workers by stealing their wages will be targeted with tough new laws that will attract the heaviest fines in Australia and jail terms for individuals.

NSW Labor Leader Luke Foley pledged a state government led by him would crack down on businesses – including head franchisors – that are guilty of ongoing, widespread and systemic wage theft – the practice of underpaying staff or paying them less than the legal minimum wage.

NSW Labor unveiled a comprehensive package to outlaw the exploitation of workers, the majority of whom are young and have recently entered the workforce.

Labor’s five point plan will see:

  • A new wage theft law to criminalise deliberate failure to pay wages and entitlements;
  • New laws to hold head franchisors accountable for the actions of franchisees;
  • Widened powers of workplace inspectors to undertake wage audits;
  • A licensing scheme for labor hire companies to force compliance with existing labour laws; and
  • New laws to protect Sunday penalty rates in all state awards and agreements.

This commitment furthers Labor’s 126-year-old tradition of standing up for workers during his keynote speech in Sydney today.

Labor’s wage theft laws will not be aimed at businesses that make a genuine mistake but at those employers who are getting away with flagrant abuses.  Media reports have exposed a roll call of major household brands such as 7-Eleven, Domino’s, Pizza Hut and United Petroleum of routinely cheating workers.

Current penalties are not tough enough and federal and state inspectorates do not have the resources to extensively audit businesses that are stealing wages, superannuation and workers’ compensation Premiums.

Quotes attributable to Labor Leader Luke Foley:

“When there is systematic exploitation of workers in the workplace, government has a responsibility to intervene.

“Vulnerable young workers are being cheated out of a staggering amount of wages by unscrupulous bosses and it has to stop.  We know the Liberals will never act – but Labor will.

“We’ll deliver a new wage theft law to criminalise the deliberate failure to pay wages and other entitlements.

“Head franchisors will be liable for what goes on in their networks when it comes to wages and other employment conditions.

“Entire chains are built on paying black market wages and the penalties are so low they think that exploiting workers is worth the risk; being caught is just the cost of doing business.

“Our new laws won’t apply to genuine mistakes. Employers who do the right thing will benefit as they won’t be competing with under-cutting cheats. But we’ll go after that minority whose business model is based on exploitation.”

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