In The Daily Fix, Crikey taps into the wisdom of experts and community leaders to find solutions to problems. This week: wage theft.
How best to increase employer compliance with minimum pay standards is a complex issue and therefore it is difficult to nominate a single change to achieve it.
Having said that, I would most like to see the Australian government prioritise solving the problem by ensuring that adequate resources are applied to employment law enforcement.
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This does not solely mean increasing the Fair Work Ombudsman’s funding, although a significant increase would assist as the Ombudsman currently receives less government funding than 10 years ago.
It also means enabling others to contribute to ensuring employer compliance, such as unions, community centres and migrant workers themselves.
Unions, who already recover millions of dollars on behalf of underpaid workers despite restrictive rights to inspect pay records, are not part of the federal government’s plan to address the problem.
Community legal centres and migrant representative groups are important conduits to legal recourse for vulnerable migrant workers but must battle just to raise funds to continue their own operation.
And migrant workers themselves could be a better utilised resource if deportation was less of a risk — the operations of the Ombudsman and Border Force must be separated by a clear operational firewall rather than current vague undertakings.
Dr. Stephen Clibborn is senior lecturer at University of Sydney Business School and Co-Director of the Sydney Employment Relations Research Group.