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Labor calls for prison terms

FAIR PAY: The Unions have lost popularity over recent years but the TWU fights on for the 'cause' but will jail terms stop unscrupulous employers ripping off workers?
FAIR PAY: The Unions have lost popularity over recent years but the TWU fights on for the 'cause' but will jail terms stop unscrupulous employers ripping off workers? Kirstin Payne

THE Labor Party in NSW and ACT at state conferences have committed to introducing jail terms for employers who refuse to pay correct wages and super to their staff.

Motions by the Transport Workers Union were backed unanimously and follow a series of scandals involving underpayment of workers. The move would amend the law to make it a criminal offence for an employer "knowingly, recklessly or repeatedly underpay their staff”.

The TWU motion followed a pledge by NSW ALP leader Luke Foley to introduce tougher deterrents for employers who deliberately underpaid workers. A similar motion was passed by the Labor Party in Victoria in May.

"I commend Luke Foley's leadership on this issue. The Labor Party has clearly listened to the community on this issue and decided to address the scourge of wage theft,” TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon said.

"When an employer refuses to pay the correct rates, allowances or superannuation the worst that can happen is that the Fair Work Ombudsman asks them to pay it back. This is not a deterrent, it's an invitation to see what you can get away with. Billions of dollars are being taken out of employees' pay cheques every year through unpaid wages and superannuation.” A recent scandal involving 7-Eleven erupted when it was found staff were forced to work long hours for as little as $10 an hour. So far the company has had to pay out $110 million in wage underpayments. Caltex meanwhile has set up a $20 million fund to repay staff while Dominos has so far paid back $4.5 million.

There was no comment from trucking associations in regard to the call.

An audit of adverts by Unions NSW recently published showed almost 80% of businesses advertising jobs in foreign language newspapers and sites were offering pay below the award.

A report by Industry Super Australia shows in 2013-2014 employers failed to pay $5.6 billion in super payments.

The TWU NSW branch has so far this recovered over $750,000 in unpaid wages and allowances for members.

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