Wage theft raids in Brisbane and Melbourne have recovered $1,212,727 for 131 fast food, hospitality and retail workers.
Industrial advocates say the raids are further proof that wage theft is endemic in many industries.
Wage theft raids in Brisbane and Melbourne
The Fair Work Ombudsman conducted the raids prior to the coronavirus pandemic.
Inspectors targeted popular food precincts in Brisbane and Melbourne.
Additionally, they audited food and retail businesses around the country that had previously breached workplace laws.
Fair Work launched the raids after receiving multiple complaints from workers about wage theft.
Most of the businesses failed to pay correct penalty rates and lawful minimum hourly wages.
Inspectors investigated 44 businesses at West End in Brisbane.
They found 88 percent failed to comply with workplace laws, including underpaying staff.
As a result, the regulator recovered $309,073 for 369 workers in the area.
The underpayments by the businesses ranged from $377 to $65,215.
“GEELONG WORKERS BACK-PAID $431,875 AFTER SURPRISE AUDITS”
Meanwhile, inspectors raided 49 fast food, cafes and restaurants in Melbourne’s Degraves Street and Hardware Lane.
They found 84 percent of the outlets failed to comply with workplace laws.
In total, the regulator recovered $194,365 for 186 workers in the area.
Total underpayments for each business ranged from $30 to $59,680.
In response to the Brisbane and Melbourne breaches, Fair Work issued:
- one contravention letter;
- 19 formal cautions;
- 51 infringement notices (with total penalties of $101,220);
- and 42 compliance notices.
Other businesses targeted
Fair Work also investigated another 171 businesses across the country, finding a 71 percent non-compliance rate.
As a result of those raids, inspectors recovered $709,289 for 796 workers.
The affected workers included chefs, cooks, waiters and retail assistants.
In response to breaches, Fair Work issued:
- 11 contravention letters;
- 10 formal cautions;
- 16 infringement notices (with total penalties of $31,290);
- and 85 compliance notices.
ARE YOU OWED UNPAID WAGES?
No excuse for wage theft
Most businesses told Fair Work the contraventions happened because they didn’t understand modern awards.
Industrial advocate Miles Heffernan from WAGETHEFT.net.au says ignorance is no excuse for wage theft.
“If you don’t know how to pay your staff properly, or if you can’t afford to, then you shouldn’t be in business,” he said.
“The results of these compliance activities by the regulator prove that wage theft is rampant in many industries.
“Criminal penalties for wage theft are long overdue.
“Until we start locking up greedy bosses who steal from their workers, then wage theft will continue to happen in it’s current epidemic proportions.”
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