The McKell Institute is urging the parliament to back evidence-based reforms to finally put a stop to endemic wage theft in the Australian economy, which currently costs Australian workers and the economy more than $1 billion each year.
With the introduction of Labor’s ‘Closing Loopholes Bill’ this week, McKell Institute CEO Edward Cavanough urged the federal parliament not to delay vital reforms that would ensure workers’ hard-earned wages stayed in their pockets.
Mr Cavanough cited a tranche of detailed research undertaken by the McKell Institute in recent years that underscores the need for urgent reform:
- Recent McKell Institute analysis based on Fair Work Ombudsman audits since 2009 shows that Australian workers are being underpaid nearly $850m a year.
- While more than 80 per cent of gig economy workers rely on the job to survive, nearly half are earning below the minimum wage and those in food delivery are the worst off.
- In 2020, Mckell Institute analysis calculated the use of labour hire casuals in mining cost the NSW Hunter Valley and regional Queensland up to $825m a year in lost economic activity.
“This bill contains sensible, evidence-based reforms. Paying labour hire workers the same as direct employees for the same job, holding employers criminally responsible for deliberate wage theft, and having minimum standards to safeguard the lives and livelihoods of delivery drivers and riders – none of this is remotely radical,” Mr Cavanough said.
“Years of McKell Institute research indicates that these reforms will not just benefit individual Australian workers, but the Australian economy as a whole.
“These much needed reforms were left on the shelf for nearly a decade, despite abundant evidence for their benefit as detailed by the McKell Institute. There is no need for further delay. It’s inconceivable that this parliament would side with big business, already raking in unprecedented profits, over workers being ripped off during a cost of living crisis.
“Wage theft is not a bill Australia can afford. We have long known where the problems are and now we have the chance to fix them.”