Miles Heffernan, Director of Industrial Relations Claims appeared before the Queensland wage theft inquiry today.
Representing four clients who had their wages stolen
Industrial Relations Claims are seeking a better system of enforcement and an easier way for victims to recover what they’re owed.
Chef Catherine Black, former medical centre manager Kay Clifton, truck driver Kym Rake and service station attendant Jamie Gardner-Hudson, all told stories about how they had wages stolen by their employer.
“Had it not been for my dear old dad, I probably would have been living on the streets in my car, and it was just so traumatic – the stress and the mental anguish you’re going through at the time, it’s just deplorable,” Ms Clifton told the committee.
Ms Black, who was made to work 444 extra hours unpaid, described the pressure it put on her life as a single mum.
“I had to order ‘Deliveroo’ for my daughter from work – it’s a hard thing, because being in a corporate catering environment which it was, the boss says you finish at 2, but then don’t finish until 6 or 7 at night,” she said.
Mr Heffernan told the committee that the Fair Work Ombudsman’s enforcement of wage theft was “a fiasco”, which allowed employers free reign to rip off their workers.
“The Ombudsman’s own report says they had 17000 people they recovered money for, yet their own document says that only 1500 of those were subject to enforcement’s. So even when they catch you with your hand in the cookie jar, you have less than 10 percent chance of getting a breach notice,” Mr Heffernan said.
Ms Clifton, who had $45,000 in entitlements stolen when her job was made redundant, said she got no help from the FWO.
“I rang the Ombudsman for assistance, and she said, ‘oh you’re probably going to have to get your own legal advice’, she said, ‘at the end of the day, I can’t force him to pay you’,” Ms Clifton told the inquiry.
Committee member Michael Healy said it was clear that the FWO was “a toothless tiger”.
Mr Heffernan called on the Queensland government to take matters into its own hands by rehiring industrial inspectors to provide more “boots on the ground” to enforce workplace laws, instead of leaving it to the federal FWO.