Public sector unions lob ‘wage theft’ allegations at Vic government, ABC

By Shannon Jenkins

Monday October 21, 2019

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Up to 2000 employees in the Victorian Department of Justice and Department of Health and Human Services could be owed up to $300,000 in superannuation.

Shift workers in state prisons and youth justice centres have allegedly been underpaid due to an annual leave allowance for shift workers working weekends. According to the Australian Taxation Office, the allowance classifies as superannuable income. 

The departments have allegedly not paid super on the allowance, which the Community and Public Sector Union believes could add up to $300,000 in owed pay.

The union called for an Industrial Relations Victoria inquiry in February. The agency has now engaged the state Solicitor-General to investigate the matter.

CPSU state secretary Karen Batt wrote to the Industrial Relations Minister and Treasurer Tim Pallas earlier this month, stating that the government had recently said there could be “potential inadvertent noncompliance” in departments.

“CPSU regard this matter as falling within the definition of wage theft which your government has condemned in relation to the conduct of other employers,” she wrote.

A representative from CPSU Victoria has told The Mandarin that Pallas has not yet responded to Batt and restitution has not yet been made.

A government spokesperson said affected workers would be recompensed. 

“Industrial Relations Victoria and the Victorian Government Solicitor’s Office are investigating superannuation compliance for some public service employees,” they said.

“Any underpayments identified will be repaid and changes will be made to payroll processes as needed.”

Meanwhile, the CPSU has released a “deeply concerning” report on wage theft within the ABC, which was sparked by an employee who disputed their casual pay last year, and followed by the ABC admitting it had possibly underpaid 2,500 staff over six years.

The union found the ABC had committed “numerous breaches” of its own Enterprise Agreement, as well as breaches of the Fair Work Act. The report also argued that the ABC had at least ten significant opportunities to review their casual employee payments over the last six years, but did not do so.

“It has been ten months since the ABC announced that it underpaid up to 2,500 of its casual employees. To date none of the ABC’s current or former casual employees have been paid the money they are owed, nor has the ABC’s leadership been transparent or accountable for the work that is being done in this space,” the report stated.

“The ABC’s leadership must explain to the ABC workforce and the broader community how this happened, who is responsible, and what changes it will make to ensure that this does not happen again. CPSU members will continue to put this issue in the public realm until they do.”

The national public broadcaster released its annual report on Wednesday, revealing that it had set aside $23m in compensation for the underpaid staff.

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