Fair Work Ombudsman inspectors raided more than 80 businesses in Geelong’s university precinct last week after numerous complaints of wage theft.
The surprise workplace compliance checks started on Monday, and included businesses located at Waurn Ponds, Geelong Waterfront, Grovedale, Newtown and Belmont and other suburbs surrounding the two Deakin University campuses.
The usual suspects involved
Businesses known for wage theft and and non-compliance of workplace laws were targeted, including restaurants, cafes and retail and fast food outlets.
Coincidentally, they are also the industries that employ young vulnerable workers like university students.
Records also requested
In addition to the raids, inspectors also demanded records from around 150 other similar businesses in the target area, meaning more than 200 employers were involved in the audit operation.
Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said last week’s activities were launched after requests for help from young workers in the area.
“Fair Work inspectors are on the ground in Geelong to check that businesses are paying their staff correctly and meeting their lawful obligations to employees under the Fair Work Act,” Ms Parker said.
“Most requests for assistance we receive from students relate to underpayment issues, such as being paid unlawful flat rates which do not factor in higher penalty rates for weekend casuals, or not receiving important entitlements like annual leave if they are permanent employees.”
Industrial relations consultant Jeremy Walton from WAGETHEFT.net.au welcomed the audits by the Fair Work Ombudsman.
“Whenever we see the workplace law enforcer out there actually doing some enforcing is always an encouraging sign,” Mr Walton said.
“Unfortunately, the result of most of these surprise mass-audit operations is most businesses receiving a warning or a minor on-the-spot fine if they are caught ripping off their workers.
“We need to see serious court action taken against those who steal from their workers, and more than that, we need to see the introduction of criminal sanctions for those repeat and deliberate offenders – but unfortunately, with the re-election of the Coalition government, we are unlikely to see any real action taken to stop wage theft and punish greedy employers who rip off their workers.”
Mr Walton called on the government to increase funding to the Fair Work Ombudsman so it can conduct more surprise raids like the one at Geelong.
“If the government is not going to punish unscrupulous employers, then the least it could do is boost the funding of the workplace watchdog, so it can do more enforcing, and take more greedy bosses to court, instead of pussy footing around with warnings, and on the spot fines and those laughable Enforceable Undertakings they seem fond of offering rogue employers,” he said.
The Fair Work Ombudsman says if inspectors find any of the businesses in Geelong have been stealing their worker’s wages, it will ensure that affected employees will be back paid any money that they are owed.
The Fair Work Ombudsman says it is committed to cracking down on compliance in the hospitality industry and recently launched a suite of new interactive tools for employers and employees to help them better understand their workplace rights and obligations.
The free resources can help hospitality workers and businesses access key employment details such as base rates, penalty rates and overtime pay.
Employers can use the pay calculator to check they’re doing the right thing by their staff when it comes to pay and workplace entitlements.
If you have not received your proper wages and entitlements, or are considering legal action to recover stolen wages, we can help.
Please call our specialist team at WAGETHEFT.net.au on
1300 1 THEFT (1300 184 338)
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