Professional services firm PwC this week released an analysis of “sleeper issues” in the Australian economy including unpaid wages, which it estimated totalled as much as $1.4 billion, with construction workers the worst affected.
The ABCC’s annual report for 2018-19 reveals the watchdog recovered $1 million in unpaid wages from employers over 2½ years. PwC estimates construction workers were underpaid $800 million over the same period.
Mr Noonan, who heads the CFMMEU’s national construction division, said if the government was serious about tackling wage theft it must ensure employers were policed as closely as unions.
“The act says they have to give equal treatment to both, but they haven’t prosecuted one employer,” he said. “You could introduce capital punishment – and if it’s not enforced, it’s irrelevant.”
Mr Porter, who released a wage theft consultation paper in September as part of his review of Australia’s industrial relations system, said he was working through union and employer submissions and would respond “in due course”.
“Naturally the capacity of agencies to enforce the law, including ensuring any criminal penalties are used to send a message to any employer who systemically, deliberately and repeatedly under-pays staff, will form part of that response,” he said.
Mr Porter said it was “beyond the pale” for the union described by the Federal Court as the nation’s “most recidivist corporate offender” to be calling for tougher enforcement.