TWU takes aim at wage and super theft

No trucking companies named as Sheldon calls for jail terms

TWU takes aim at wage and super theft
Tony Sheldon says wage and superannuation theft is widespread in the transport industry


The Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) wants jail time for employers who engage in ‘wage theft’ from their staff.

In a headline call from its national council meeting in Fremantle, the TWU is calling for governments of all political persuasions "hold employers to account over wage theft" that TWU national secretary Tony Sheldon says is widespread in the transport industry.

Though no trucking firms were name-checked amongst those that have attracted its ire recently – including Aerocare, Emirates Group company Airport Services Handling and 7-Eleven – Sheldon did talk of a Victorian driver as one who had experienced the blight.

"Then there are transport companies like the one truck driver Stephen McCormack worked for who didn’t need a sham agreement to hide the fact that they were stealing from his pay-check," he says.

"Time and again Stephen would question why his wages were short. In the end they sacked him.

"Stephen and his wife Karen are struggling, trying to keep up payments on their house and keeping things normal for when their grandkids come around to visit.

"Finding another job has proved difficult and Karen is convinced his old employer has tipped off other Shepparton transport companies not to hire him.

"Stephen is not alone. "Wage theft is endemic in the transport industry, creating financial pressure on truck drivers that ultimately kills people by forcing drivers to speed, drive long hours and skip mandatory rest breaks just to put food on the table."

He also speaks of superannuation theft.

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

"The report shows transport was identified as one of the worst industries for non-payment of super.

"Tightening margins, and in many cases greed, across the economy have made wage and superannuation theft a business model."

The union says it will seek support from the Labor Party to change the law to ensure wage theft by employers throughout the supply chain is made an offence.

"When a boss steals from workers it's quaintly referred to as 'underpayment'," TWU national secretary Tony Sheldon says.

"They may reach a settlement with the Fair Work Ombudsman to repay the money.

"Worst comes to worst, companies will simply be asked to pay back what they owe. 

"This is actually an incentive for employers to see what they can get away with."

"Malcolm Turnbull needs to be called out on his vow to make unions as accountable as employers. We support firm action against rogue elements in our ranks and businesses. Union officials face jail terms, therefore employers should also be held accountable to the same level with jail terms if they steal from the pay-packets of their employees."

The speech also criticises employers who "game the system and rort our industrial laws" by "forcing through substandard enterprise agreements on staff".

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