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Shocking stories of wage theft support QCU’s criminalisation call

Criminalising wage theft and creating an industrial division of the Magistrates Court are two of several measures recommended in the QCU’s submission to the Queensland Parliament’s inquiry into wage theft.

Public hearings for the Inquiry begin today and the Queensland Council of Unions and affected workers will provide testimony about how this scourge affects the entire community: workers, families, law-abiding businesses and the wider economy.

Queensland Council of Unions Assistant General Secretary Michael Clifford said there had been an overwhelming response to a QCU website calling for workers to provide examples of wage theft, with hundreds of submissions.

“These workers feel abandoned by the federal Coalition, which shamelessly puts its pursuit of workers and their representatives ahead of the scourge of wage theft and worker underpayment.”

The QCU submission calls for creation of an industrial division of the Magistrates Court, based on the Victorian model, as well as criminal charges for employers who engage in deliberate underpayment.

“Wage theft is an issue that affects thousands of Queensland workers, and seems to be the preferred business model for dodgy operators. These operators need to be identified and stamped out,” said Mr Clifford.

Experienced chef David Carter said wage theft was ingrained in the hospitality industry.

“Over my time, I’ve had a lot of jobs. I can honestly say, I can count the number of restaurants I’ve worked at, where I’ve been paid correctly for the hours I’ve worked, on one hand.”

Mr Clifford said submissions made by workers to the QCU clearly demonstrated that wage theft was not confined to underpaying backpackers or young workers.

“The business practices of major companies like Caltex, 7-Eleven, Dominos and Pizza have been exposed as complicit in underpayment of workers. It can’t go on and unions support this inquiry 100 per cent,” he said.