wage theft protest underpayment
(Image: United Voice)

More than a quarter of small and medium businesses in Australia may be underpaying their staff, as a steady drip of data from Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) raids across the country paints a picture of widespread refusal by business to pay its staff properly.

Last Friday the FWO released the results of a monster inspection campaign targeting businesses in regional Queensland, Victoria and NSW, revealing that 22% of 1385 businesses inspected were underpaying staff. That was in addition to other breaches of workplace laws found, such as inadequate record-keeping.

The mega-raid is only the very latest of dozens of enforcement actions undertaken by the FWO in response to revelations of widespread rip-offs of workers by 7-Eleven and other major franchisors in 2015. Crikey has compiled the results of all FWO raids and investigations since the start of 2018, which have covered not merely the wage theft hotspots of hospitality, personal services, fast food and retail, but textiles, agriculture, construction and manufacturing.