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Underpayments – Fair Work Ombudsman takes Coles to court for $115m

Quotes from Gerard Dwyer, National Secretary the SDA the union for retail, fast food warehouse and online retail workers

This is yet another reminder that underpayments remain rife in the retail and service sectors, denying thousands of workers their legal entitlements.

Too many companies have simply been getting their payroll responsibilities wrong.

It is also a reminder that all companies in the retail sector individually and generally need to respond to the SDA’s industry-wide request as long ago as November 2019 to audit their payrolls to detect underpayments.

The SDA asked dozens of companies to conduct audits. Two years later, many have yet to respond and deficient industrial laws allow them to proceed unchallenged.

The Fair Work Ombudsman says the Coles action is “a warning to all employers that they can face serious consequences”, but can the FWO really deliver.

This is a company that self-reported while hundreds of other companies have turned a blind eye to underpayments knowing their likelihood of getting caught is next to zero.

The SDA calls on the FWO to investigate the many other retail employers systematically underpaying their workers and if it does not have the resources to do so demand that the Morrison government do the right thing by Australian workers and restore the right of industry unions to conduct spot book checks.

Wage theft was not an issue when these rights existed. Unions were able to ensure responsible employers were not undercut and workers were not ripped off.

Too many workers are being made to pay the price – and see their families’ living standards suffer — because too many companies have not updated their payroll systems with 21st century technology.

This would not have happened had companies paid greater attention to their rostering and payroll systems and to the awards they are legally responsible for applying to ensure their employees get the pay to which they are entitled.

It would never have happened if consecutive coalition governments had maintained the right of unions to make spot checks of payrolls.

Australia did not have an underpayment problem until those rights were withdrawn.

They were cheap and effective, costing companies and taxpayers nothing; they should be restored.

Contact: Jim Middleton 0418 627066