Peter Khalil: Over the past few years, thousands of words have been written and spoken about the topic of wage theft. Yet, despite all the outrage and the subsequent promises of action, the fact is we continue to see bad employers stealing from working people. Just recently The Age newspaper revealed that the owners of a recycling company had stolen $1 million a year from some of the most vulnerable people in our community. These were Tamil refugees who were working seven days a week for a recycling outfit, Polytrade, and were deprived of more than $40,000 each, on average. The theft was discovered by the Migrant Workers Centre and the Australian Workers Union. In addition to the wage theft, the workers were exposed to unsafe work conditions. One man described air thick with the powder from crushed glass. He would bleed from the nose and the mouth as a result. Another fell four metres and broke his leg because of unsafe work practices.
I’m sure we would all agree that it’s despicable to steal wages. This particular case involves people who’ve come to our country seeking safety, security and prosperity for themselves and their families. The workers were mistreated, endangered and stolen from when they came to Australia asking for our help. I commend the bravery of these workers for standing up for their rights in our country, rights that are already hard won for Australians. I commend the Australian Workers Union and the Migrant Workers Centre for bringing these injustices out into the open. On this side, the Labor Party is committed to eradicating wage theft. For the sake of those who work for them, employers who steal wages and place profits before wellbeing must face every available measure of justice.