The New South Wales Society of Labor Lawyers has lodged a submission with the Senate Standing Committees on Economics’ inquiry into the unlawful underpayment of employees’ remuneration.
In the submission, the Society calls for significant reform to address the widespread and endemic incidence of underpayments in the Australian economy. The headline recommendation is a financial year audit, to be conducted by companies with over 100 employees, of their compliance with industrial instruments. The Society said:
“[A] cultural shift is needed in the Australian economy…this cultural shift must start in the boardroom, with directors of companies prioritising duties to their employees at the same level to their duties to their shareholders.”
The Society proposed a number of further reforms, including:
- keeping a public register of underpayment breaches;
- expanding right of entry and investigatory powers of trade unions;
- creating a new, one-stop jurisdiction for underpayment disputes;
- further enabling underpayment class action proceedings;
- providing adequate funding for the Fair Work Ombudsman to fully utilise the powers available to it and police the economy;
- creating a licensing system for franchise networks; and
- ensuring that Commonwealth procurement policies consider company history of underpayment in awarding government contracts.