Industry Research : Watchdog Recovers $26 Million in Wages
The industrial watchdog has recovered more than $26 million over the past year for workers who have complained about being underpaid or ripped off by employers.
The Fair Work Ombudsman's annual report for 2010/11 showed 22,500 complaint investigations had been finalised over the year, involving more than 17,000 workers.
The ombudsman Nicholas Wilson investigated examples of underpayment or non-payment of wages and overtime, unlawful deductions from wages and poor record-keeping.
Of the $26.8 million recovered, $8.2m came from employers in NSW, $7.5m from Victoria and $6m from Queensland.
Mr Wilson said in the report foreign workers were particularly vulnerable to unscrupulous employers.
In April, the former operators of 7-Eleven stores in Melbourne and Geelong were fined $150,000 for deliberately exploiting six students from Zimbabwe and India and ordered to pay them back $90,000.
Sham contracting, in which an employer disguises or misrepresents an employee as an independent contractor, was a "major issue across a number of industries", the report said.
The ombudsman conducted 112 audits of employers in the cleaning, contact centre and hair and beauty industries as part of a campaign to raise awareness of sham contracting.
Insulation installers were also examined in a special campaign, with the ombudsman finding 27 per cent failed to comply with workplace laws and recovering $48,000 in pay for workers.
A campaign targeting cleaning services found 37 per cent of companies not complying with workplace laws and recovered more than $240,000 in pay.
In April this year, according to the report, the ombudsman had a win in the case of a fast-food retailer, which was found to have underpaid 693 of its Tasmanian employees a total of $665,695 between March 2006 and August 2008.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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Published: Monday, October 17, 2011