Monday, April 09, 2018

Time to punish wage theft

wage theft is endemic in Australia, with employers systematically stealing from their employees. Now, in the state of Victoria, unions are campaigning for it to be made a criminal offence:

Unions will campaign ahead of this year's state election for the Andrews government to make ‘wage theft’ a crime and punishable by up to 10 years in jail.

The move by the Victorian Trades Hall Council and its Young Workers Centre is part of a growing legislative push in Australia to try to turn the deliberate underpayment of wages into a criminal offence.

‘’It’s so rampant, it’s so out of control, it’s time for police to step in,’’ said Trades Hall secretary Luke Hilakari. ‘’We think this will be a game changer. We will send people to prison over this.’’

This seems reasonable. The only difference between wage theft and other sorts of theft is that it is done by a person in a position of trust who abuses their power to steal. And that is an aggravating factor, not a mitigating one.

But what about New Zealand? Wage theft is a problem here too. The forestry industry is pervasively criminal, with 90% of employers stealing from their workers. Over here, you can get 7 years in prison if you steal over $1,000, or when in a relationship of trust (something referred to as "theft as a servant", which tells you its history and who it is used against). The same applies if you steal by deception. The same penalty scale should apply to bosses who intentionally and criminally steal from their employees. Anyone want to bring a member's bill...?