The SDA, the union for retail, fast-food and warehouse workers, welcomes any move which aims to put an end to the exploitation of workers in Australia, however the union says it still has serious concerns about the current situation facing 7-Eleven workers.
SDA National Secretary, Gerard Dwyer, said the Federal Employment Minister’s announcement today of proposed measures to clamp down on wage fraud comes only after sustained pressure from the union and others on the Federal Government to address the shocking incidences of exploitation of workers in Australia.
“We would hope that putting a halt to the exploitation of workers in Australia would be a priority of all political parties,” Mr Dwyer said.
“It’s disappointing that it has taken so long for the Federal Government to begin to take action to address the serious exploitation that we know is occurring in stores like 7-Eleven, given the issues were first publicly aired well over eight months ago now, but it’s promising that the Employment Minister has finally now turned her attention to the problem.
“The Federal Government is playing catch up on this issue. The problems at 7-Eleven were first raised back in August last year and the Turnbull Government has remained silent ever since.
“The ALP led the Senate hearings into the exploitation of 7-Eleven workers and introduced a Bill to address the issue of exploited workers back in March, and the SDA and other unions and organisations have been very vocal in our calls for the Government to take action. Minister Cash has been dragged kicking and screaming to this point, but it’s great that she’s finally arrived.
“While we’re yet to see the real detail of Michaelia Cash’s proposal, the basis of today’s election policy announcement seems quite strong. Strengthening the Fair Work Ombudsman, giving Allan Fels oversight of a Migrant Worker Task force and increasing the fines for those found to be breaking the law are all critical steps in the right direction.
“One glaring omission from the Minister’s announcement today is the mention of unions. If the Federal Government is serious about stamping out exploitation, we need to improve unions’ access to companies like 7-Eleven so that we can ensure Award wages and conditions are being applied and so that we can detect potential exploitation up front rather than hearing about it down the track.
Mr Dwyer said the union still has serious concerns about the immediate problems facing 7-Eleven workers and is calling for complete transparency and clarity around the process.
“Unfortunately today’s announcement won’t provide the 7-Eleven workers who are still fighting for their fair pay much peace of mind,” Mr Dwyer said. “We’ve been seeking urgent clarity around the terms of reference of the new 7-Eleven panel, but so far we’ve been stonewalled by the company.
“It is fantastic that Allan Fels will still have some oversight of the 7-Eleven panel in his proposed new role with the FWO, but we need complete transparency around how that process will work.
“What we really need to see now is the terms of reference the 7-Eleven panel is working to, as well as a rock-solid guarantee that the personal details of workers will not be handed over to the company.
“These workers have come forward on the basis of that their personal details would remain secure. They are rightly fearful for their safety and livelihood and deserve to know everything possible is being done to protect them.”
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