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Wage underpayment laws are essential for workers and competition.

Updated: Aug 20, 2021

2021 Federal Budget Reply

“COSBOA supports Anthony Albanese’s call for wage underpayment laws to be put back on the Federal Agenda”

COSBOA welcomes the commitment made by the Federal Opposition Leader, the Hon. Anthony Albanese MP, to reintroduce criminal penalties for employers who engage in deliberate and systemic wage underpayment.

The issue of wage underpayment is not simply one of employees receiving the money for the which they are legally entitled – important as that objective is.

“Businesses engaging in deliberate wage underpayment behaviours are gaining an unfair advantage over the majority of businesses who are doing the right thing by paying correct wages which is why employer groups should be just as outraged by this behaviour as everyone else”, said COSBOA Chair Mark McKenzie.

“Deliberately underpaying wages is wrong at any time, but in this post Covid era of low wage growth, deliberately underpaying wages is deeply immoral”, said Mr McKenzie.

“We are not talking about businesses simply getting it wrong – mistakes will happen when systems are too complicated. We are talking about those businesses who deliberately and systematically underpay their staff to lower their wage costs over their competitors”, Mr McKenzie said.

All involved in the IR Working Groups of the past year acknowledge that the process of multiple reforms being progressed all at once was a ‘big ask’. Employer groups and unions were asked to consider concessions on six broad areas – some being more important than others.

“It proved to a step too far in the end and all we collectively managed to do was to promote ‘our fight’ into the federal parliament, resulting in the abandonment of vitally important wage underpayment laws”, said Mr McKenzie.

Within this context, the leadership shown by the Hon. Anthony Albanese MP in committing to put this issue back on the Federal Parliamentary agenda is a very welcome one.

“Mr Albanese’s suggestions that meaningful actions against deliberate wage underpayment cannot be excused by the difficult debates of the recent past is supported by COSBOA”, said Mr McKenzie.

“We agree that there is a need for all stakeholders to immediately come together and formulate a comprehensive approach that deals with those who deliberately break the law, while protecting those who simply make mistakes in interpreting Australia’s complex IR legislation and agree to remedy these mistakes” added Mr McKenzie.

“What’s the point of having minimum wage laws if we have no way of dealing with those who deliberately cheat the system”, added Mr McKenzie.

“Strong action on deliberate wage underpayment must be taken now. To not do so, is an abrogation of responsibility to ensure fairness for employers and businesses alike” concluded Mr McKenzie.


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