FWO: Wage theft reoffending widespread

By Leith van Onselen

Late last month,  the University of Technology Sydney released a study claiming Australia had a “large, silent underclass of underpaid migrant workers” with backpackers and international students owed more than $1 billion in unpaid wages.

Now, a national audit by the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) has revealed that 38% of employers caught underpaying employees were still doing it when re-audited by the FWO. From The Australian:

The ombudsman re-audited 479 business that had previously broken workplace laws, with 38 per cent still not meeting their legal obligations to employees… only two of the 184 businesses still breaching the Fair Work Act were prosecuted…

Of the businesses that remained non-compliant, the agency recovered $244,246 from 98 employers for 347 workers…

ACTU secretary Sally McManus said there were about 200 agency inspectors charged with enforcing workplace laws for more than 12 million workers.

What do you get when you add ever more cheap foreign labour to an oversupplied labour market? A complete breakdown in industrial relations as firms give up on training and full time employment and instead import cheap, easy come, easy go foreign alternatives. You’d be mad as business to do anything else if offered it.

The end result in mass underemployment and low wages growth.

[email protected]

Leith van Onselen

Leith van Onselen is Chief Economist at the MB Fund and MB Super. Leith has previously worked at the Australian Treasury, Victorian Treasury and Goldman Sachs.

Latest posts by Leith van Onselen (see all)


  1. My small business struggles to compete with those who do it.
    A casual barista gets $35 an hour on a sunday under the FWA! If our competitor is paying $10 an hour we cannot win.

    • One friends daughter working in cafe in Sandringham,vic.
      Cash in hand wages, not award and didn’t pay her for four months- paid after a bit of parental persuasion. Apparently a very common story.
      So you may well be competing against people who are not paying staff at all if they can get away with it.

      • Interesting – Niece works as a waitress in a cafe in Sandringham (opposite station) and she’s owed $1,800! It’s outrageous. Cash in hand, no records – just a hand written book with hours worked. Apparently owner has 3 cafes. Barista’s are however paid on time.

      • These days it is very easy to demonstrate in court that you were at work, because google holds your location data.

    • BS you can’t compete – it just means no profit for you! So you either employ the slaves, or be the slave.

      The motto of those who advocate for our stupid immigration rates is: He Who Slaves, Wins.

    • Exactly. The regulators have been turning a blind eye for so long that businesses like yours are forced to do the same or perish. The end result is systemic exploitation across many industries.

      The fake left only pretend to care, knowing that $10/hr in Australia is still better than $1/hr in India.

    • Have you tried to help? ie, donate money to an anti-immigration party? a state party that wants jail for wage theft?

      Have you demanded gas reservation so that electricity prices come down?

    • Just because all your mates are having incestuous relationships with their respective mothers – doesn’t mean that you have to as well. Right? Right?

  2. Calling all MB’ers trained in SAR,
    The minister responsible has not been sighted for months,

    I am concerned for her safety.

  3. While the homeless population explodes.

    It is so depressing to see homeless men with pets in the CBD. The local member is Adam Bandt! Some hero.

  4. Jumping jack flash

    Has to be done to afford the debt and keep up with living costs, only for the owners of course.

    People simply aren’t going to pay $22 for a coffee so the owners can pay their staff enough so they can afford to obtain and pay the debt.

    People will, however, pay $80/week for electricity. So they do.