Wage-theft in ACT costs workers $24.5m per year

Based on PwC figures released yesterday, UnionsACT has estimated that the cost of the wage-theft crisis to working people in Canberra is $24.5 million per year.

PwC has estimated that the colossal scale of wage-theft affects 13 percent of the Australian workforce (approx. 1.6 million workers) and costs $1.35 billion annually.

Based on the PwC figures, UnionsACT has calculated that on average, 30,500 workers in the ACT have $802 in wages stolen from them by their boss each year.

These estimates do not include superannuation theft.

Separate research from Industry Super Australia showed that each year 45,000 Canberrans have an average of $3,400 of their superannuation stolen by employers through underpayments and non-payment.

The PwC report noted that certain industries had a higher prevalence of wage-theft, including construction, healthcare and social services, retail, and accommodation and food services. The accounting firm estimates that wage-theft is as high as 21% in those industries, compared to 13% across all industries.

The PwC report concluded:

The decline of union presence in Australian workplaces has led to a decline in the policing of employee entitlements specific to particular industries, where the interpretation and operation of industry-specific entitlements often carry a long history.

The following quotes are attributable to Alex White, secretary of UnionsACT:

“The vast scale of wage-theft in Canberra is appalling, and the cost for everyday workers whose wages are stolen is massive.

“Dodgy employers are stealing almost a thousand dollars a year from the pockets of their employees.

“If it were simply a matter of ‘complexity’ as corporate lobby groups claim, then there would be far higher rates of overpayment, but strangely the so-called complexity always seems to benefit the boss.

“Rather than manufacture excuses clearly intended as a stalking horse to remove protections of workers’ right in Awards, business lobby groups should ensure their members stop stealing wages.”

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