Labor’s industrial relations spokesman Tony Burke said the opposition party had been calling on the Liberals for five years “to do something about worker underpayment, whether it occurs as a result of genuine payroll error or deliberate, systematic wage theft”.
Mr Porter, who had hoped to pass his union-busting Ensuring Integrity Bill in the Senate this week, is still seeking the support of key Senate crossbenchers but said he was “confident” of reaching agreement – although it will now be delayed at least until Parliament next sits from November 25.
Tasmanian senator Jacqui Lambie is holding out her support for the Ensuring Integrity Bill, as are One Nation senators Pauline Hanson and Malcolm Roberts.
Senators Lambie and Hanson have both expressed concerns about the bill’s impact on non-militant unions, after the Australian Council of Trade Unions warned unions could be shut down over minor paperwork offences.
Mr Porter described this claim as “absolute nonsense”.
The government needs one Senate vote to pass the legislation, in addition to Centre Alliance senators Rex Patrick and Stirling Griff, who have agreed to amendments.
It is understood that independent senator Cory Bernardi has agreed to vote for the bill.
Mr Porter is preparing a second wage theft discussion paper canvassing options for penalties other than criminal sanctions to deter company directors from allowing wage theft to go undetected – including potential bans from serving on boards – and a fast-tracked process for workers to pursue underpayment claims in the Fair Work Commission.