11 March 2021


SUBJECTS: Victorian Wage Theft Legislation; IR Omnibus Bill.

SENATOR JESS WALSH, SENATOR FOR VICTORIA: Today, a Senate Hearing into wage theft will hear that Christian Porter’s Industrial Relations Bill will wipe-out Victoria’s stronger wage theft laws.

Christian Porter’s IR Bill is due to hit the Senate next week and if it passes the Government will effectively be running a protection racket for unscrupulous employers.

This Bill wipes out Victoria’s wage theft laws that workers have fought hard for.

And if the Bill passes, workers will find it much harder to prosecute their employers for wage theft. And employers will be given a free pass in the state of Victoria.

If this Bill passes then the next George Calombaris, the next Rockpool, the next Dinner by Heston could very well get off the hook and avoid prosecution.

Victorian workers deserve so much better from the Morrison Government.

MICHELE O’NEIL, PRESIDENT ACTU: The IR Omnibus Bill is bad law and it is bad law because it’s going to hurt working people, cut their pay and cut their conditions. And what will happen today is you will be hearing from working people that are going to talk about the fact that it was workers in Victoria and Queensland who fought to have better state laws to make sure that bosses couldn’t get away with stealing their wages. 

Because that’s what we see happening. We see it happening all over the country. Where hardworking people aren’t getting paid even their minimum legal entitlements. Working hours more than they’re rostered to work with sometimes no pay at all. Getting less than the hourly rate they’re legally entitled to. Not getting their breaks. Long days and long nights where they should be paid properly, when instead the big companies that are employing them are reaping the profits and these workers are left underpaid and subject to wage theft.

The IR Omnibus Bill that the Federal Government, that Christian Porter and Scott Morrison, are trying to introduce is a Bill that will make wage theft worse for workers in Victoria and Queensland. That’s because the laws that are in place in those states will be overrun by this new Commonwealth Law. It will mean that there’s a lower bar so that when you’re trying to get your rights enforced, when you’re trying to hold bosses responsible for stealing your wages, it will actually be much, much harder to prosecute them. To hold them to account. To make them responsible for the fact that they’ve stolen workers’ wages.

That’s why this Bill is bad law. That’s why this Bill should not be passed next week. The Government should withdraw it. The Crossbenchers should oppose it. This is bad for working people, but it is also bad for good, honest employers. Those small businesses that are trying to do the right thing and can’t compete against the businesses that are ripping off working people. 

JULES GIBSON, HOSPO VOICE MEMBER: This IR policy is a kick in the guts to me as a Hospo Voice member and as a hospitality worker for 16 years. We worked really hard and campaigned for a long time to get these really strong laws, and this IR Bill totally undermines that and it means that money that we’re entitled to – that is owed to us – will be taken away from us.

I got eighteen thousand dollars back from wage theft and it’s totally changed my life. It’s changed my ability to have a better lifestyle, I have choices and options that I wouldn’t have prior to getting this money back. 

The idea that this is going to rob other people from having access to that money is just so insulting. Hospo Voice members and workers are sick and tired of being exploited and abused like this. I have had enough; we’re going to fight this. I am not letting the Federal Government get away with claiming that they are protecting workers when they are not.

CARINA GARLAND, ASSISTANT SECRETARY, VICTORIAN TRADES HALL COUNCIL: Working Victorians fought really hard over several years to get these wage theft laws in. And part of the reason they had to do that at a state level is because we have a terrible IR system that lets bosses build businesses on wage theft in this country. And that is a disgrace.

These proposed laws from Christian Porter and Scott Morrison will make it harder for workers to access justice. And that’s really what’s at the heart of these wage theft laws, is the capacity for workers to get justice and the money that they’re owed. And it’s about sending a message to the community that we do not accept that you can build a business in this country on the back of wage theft.

The Victorian community was outraged to hear stories of George Calombaris, of Rockpool, of those celebrity chefs ripping off workers. And it is disgraceful to know that under the proposed federal laws those bosses would not be held to account. But they would be under Victorian laws. And that’s why it is so important that we recognise that not only is what is proposed insufficient to deal with wage theft – if that really is what the Government intends to do – but it will do active harm to Victorian workers who put it all on the line to win these wage theft laws in this state.