Wage Theft Case Studies from Across the Globe
Despite its reputation as the ‘Lucky Country’ rampant and deliberate wage theft is still well and truly alive in Australia. From 7/11 to Dominos, wage theft is a national issue that affects millions of Australian workers. While the government is working hard to tackle underpayment, it’s always helpful to look to other nations for inspiration.
So, what countries are setting an example?
Making America great again
With Trump now in power, America’s political outlook is controversial at best. When Obama was in office he introduced legislations that were designed to protect workers from wage theft. Basically, they penalised businesses that violated wage and safety laws by revoking government contracts. Under the Trump administration, Congressional Republicans argue that these laws are restrictive and hinder growth. As a result, the US Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces rule could soon be a thing of the past.
Advice for all
In the UK, the Citizens Advice network offers free, online information to Brits across the nation. It’s made up of 316 independent charities, and covers everything from landlords and legal issues to wage theft and taxation. It’s a fantastic public resource, and sets the bar high for other first world countries wanting to empower their citizens with knowledge.
Giving marginalised workers a voice
In developing countries like Thailand, workers rely heavily on third parties to regulate wages and facilitate fair working conditions. For example, to mark the UN’s International Migrant Day, global alliance Clean Clothes Campaign and Thai NGO MAP Foundation teamed up to launch an in-depth study of the working conditions of Burmese migrants working in the Thai apparel industry. They found that as well as being denied the right to collective bargaining and minimum social security, workers were also subject to wage theft. Movements like these play a pivotal role in promoting a fair work culture, and preventing modern day slavery.
Icelandic employers target vulnerable groups
Wage theft can come in a myriad of shapes and sizes, and doesn’t necessarily have to involve minimum wage breaches. In Iceland, the Icelandic Confederation of Labour (ASI) has revealed that employers may be deliberately underpaying vulnerable groups (such as young people and expatriates) to the tune of 15%. This includes deliberate acts like vetoing overtime, failing to offer paid breaks, and removing sickness entitlements. One of the best ways to regulate this form of wage theft is to introduce purpose built workforce management software that actively tracks and audits staff.
Germany takes a stand
Germans aren’t known as pushovers, and wage theft is no exception. In Deutschland, workers are fighting wage theft with organised union strikes, and dedicated websites like wagetheftsettlement.org that offer legal support to workers who feel they’ve been exploited.
Kiwis call for a fair go
In New Zealand, there’s a growing movement to combat wage theft and give all employees a fair go. Worker’s rights groups are calling for tougher penalties against employers that breach standards, looking to the UK and USA for inspiration. Currently, wage theft is considered a major offence, with bosses slapped with heavy fines, public ‘name and shame’ campaigns, and in worst case scenarios even sent to prison. If all goes to plan, NZ will soon follow suit. As well as tackling minimum wage breaches, groups are also focussing on failure to process holiday pay, and other entitlements.
The global fair trade movement
Wage theft is a global issue, and can span far beyond an employer and its employees. To truly tackle wage theft the world needs to take a holistic approach, and it all starts with fair trade. In Australia, fair trade is regulated by Fairtrade International, a global organisation that’s dedicated to empowering labourers with stable prices, decent working conditions, and a fair go. The familiar blue and green Fairtrade Mark makes it easy for consumers to make informed choices that support the movement. Here’s an example of just how important fair trade can be. Say your local coffee shop makes an effort to serve fair trade Colombian coffee. It’s therefore actively combating wage theft in South America, and as a consumer so are you. So, whether you’re shopping at Oxfam, keeping an eye out for the Fairtrade Mark, or boycotting brands that are synonymous with poor working conditions, often combating wage theft is all about making informed decisions.