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Employers caught underpaying mine workers face up to 10 years in jail

WorkPac applicants
WorkPac applicants

Mining companies or labour hire firms found guilty of wage theft could face up to a decade behind bars under new rules.

The Queensland Government is cracking down against employers that incorrectly compensate mine workers for hours worked, loading and paid leave.

Wage theft will now carry a maximum jail sentence of 10 years according to the Criminal Code and Other Legislation (Wage Theft) Amendment Bill 2020, which state parliament passed on September 9. It will also be easier and faster to recover unpaid wages.

Big win

This could offer greater protection especially for casual or labour hire workers, who are not paid for untaken annual leave, public holidays they did not work, and compassionate/personal/carer’s leave.

The Federal Court recently ruled that long-term casualisation of the workforce is against the law, and revealed WorkPac Group’s 20 per cent loading actually only covered public holidays, annual leave and sick leave but not any ordinary time or overtime.

“Like all workers, the bare minimum these workers are asking for is a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work, to get what is legally owed to them but unfortunately for them that has not been the reality,” State Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace said in a public statement after meeting with workers who were underpaid.

“Far too often and for far too long, the stories of wage theft and underpayment have continued unabated. Well, we have said enough is enough. Stronger penalty and deterrence measures are needed for those who commit wage theft, particularly where it is deliberate and systematic and part of an employer’s business model.”

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The state government estimates that wage theft affects one in four Queensland workers and costs workers $2.2 billion in unpaid wages and superannuation each year.

“These laws will change this,” Grace said.

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