Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Wage thieves

Last week, the Employment Court ruled that unpaid morning meetings held by Smiths City were work, and ordered the retailer to pay its workers for them. In the wake of the ruling there were hundreds of complaints alleging similar practices, and it turns out that they are widespread in the retail sector:

Retail workers at the Cotton On Group, the Briscoes Group and Harvey Norman are not being paid for working overtime, according to a union representing retail staff.

The employers are the most recent to be named for alleged illegal pay practices from hundreds of worker complaints laid with First Union, retail secretary Tali Williams said.

Staff complaints were over unpaid preparation meetings before stores opened and being forced to stay after stores closed to "cash up" the counter and clean, she said.

If an employer expects you to do it, then its work, and it should be paid. The refusal of these companies to pay their workers is simply systematic wage-theft. At the minimum, they need to be forced to pay their workers, with backpay and interest. But in the long-term, we need to punish this like any other form of theft. If a person steals a $1,000 TV set, they can face 7 years in prison. But if they steal $1,000 in wages, they don't. If a worker swipes $100 from a till, they can face a similar penalty. But abusing your position of power to steal from your workers apparently isn't criminal. And it needs to be. Because clearly the current situation, where thieving employers face no effective punishment, provides no incentive for them to obey the law.