Employers hit back at push to shame wage thieves


“The General Retail Industry Award features approximately 1,000 ways to classify staff for payment purposes.”

Mr Porter, who has said employers should expect only modest changes to the award system under a separate review, on Tuesday made clear he had no patience for employer pleas about complexity.

“To blame complexity, from some of the most sophisticated organisations in Australia, is just something that I fundamentally do not accept,” he said.

“Many of them engage in massive expenditure effort on self-promotion, on advertising, and they have had their eye off the ball.”

Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Sally McManus said wage theft was too often a business model used by “dodgy businesses” that posed “unfair competition to businesses who are doing the right thing and obeying the law”.

“The first priority in addressing wage theft is working people getting access to justice – quickly and at low cost,” Ms McManus said, voicing support for Mr Porter’s indication in the discussion paper that he would consider ways to speed up access to justice for underpaid workers.

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Franchise retailer The Cheesecake Shop said in a submission to a Senate inquiry into wage underpayment that many of its more than 2000 staff had no idea whether they were paid properly, due to award complexity – and that the cost of complying was too high.

The franchisor recently upgraded its payroll system to software that uses “cloud-based time and attendance systems” and biometric data, costing $940,000 a year to ensure that franchisees – under pressure from competitors who underpaid staff – were paying employees properly.

“I can recall, perhaps two visits by the Fair Work Ombudsman to any of our franchisees over the past ten years,” Managing director Ken Rosebery wrote in a submission to the inquiry.

Labor’s industrial relations spokesman Tony Burke said Labor would “look closely” at any legislation that resulted from Mr Porter’s latest wage theft discussion paper, but that the government’s union-busting Ensuring Integrity Bill posed a threat to “the best advocates workers have got”.

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