The AMWU is eager to give further input to the Federal Opposition’s new plan to crack down on dodgy employers who exploit workers by dramatically lifting fines and jail terms if it gets into Government.
AMWU National Secretary Paul Bastian said unions, the Fair Work Ombudsman and the courts needed sharper teeth to prosecute and penalise company bosses after ample evidence in 2015.
There was underpayment and sham contracting, where workers are falsely labelled as contractors so the boss avoids paying penalty rates, superannuation, holiday pay, sick pay and most other rights.
Labor has acted after the exploitation of chicken factory workers and the growth of rogue labour hire operators were exposed in the media as just the tip of a massive iceberg.
“We’ll be happy to work with either side of politics on this crucial issue for Australia’s workers and their families but from the start of this election year of 2016 all the Turnbull Government has done is attack unions – no change from Tony Abbott,” Mr Bastian said.
Labor Leader Bill Shorten unveiled a reform plan this week including:
*cracking down on deliberate underpayments of workers, with potential civil fines for an individual employer on each offence raised from $16,000 to $216,000 and fines for a company lifted from $54,080 to over $1 million.
*protecting workers from sham contracting, by strengthening legal protections of a worker’s entitlements and possibly making it a criminal offence, punishable with two years jail time
*Giving the Fair Work Ombudsman extra powers to pursue and prosecute rogue employers who use “phoenixing” – liquidiating companies to avoid paying workers entitlements then setting up again overnight.
*making sure there is a level playing field for all workers by putting extra resources into stopping exploitation of foreign visa workers
Mr Bastian contrasted Labor’s approach with the Coalition’s obsession to reduce penalty rates, undermine collective bargaining and this week try again to revive the Australian Building and Construction Commission, a draconian Howard-era relic.
Strong action needed: The AMWU will work with any party or independent MP in Canberra who makes a genuine commitment for stronger penalties to deter rips-offs of workers.