SDA welcomes appointment of Professor Alan Fels, calls for tougher penalties on worker exploitation

SDA welcomes appointment of Professor Alan Fels, calls for tougher penalties on worker exploitation.

The SDA welcomed the appointment of Professor Alan Fels to the new migrant taskforce and has called on the Federal Government to create tough new penalties to protect migrant workers from rampant exploitation as exposed in 7-Eleven stores.

Gerard Dwyer, National Secretary of the SDA said “we welcome the appointment of Professor Alan Fels as the head of the Federal Government’s new Migrant Taskforce. His work as a champion on behalf of migrant workers is to be admired.”

“Prior to its disbandment by 7-Eleven, the panel Professor Fels headed indicated that exploited workers could be owed up to $100 million in back pay.”

“This invaluable work provided the first insight into the staggering magnitude of the exploitation and underpayment of 7-Eleven workers.”

“Since that time the SDA and Maurice Blackburn been working together and have filed claims totalling $5.9 million for unpaid wages for 7-Eleven workers. Around $1million has been paid out to date.”

Maurice Blackburn Lawyers Employment Principal Giri Sivaraman, who has been acting pro-bono, says a clear mandate, proper resourcing and legislative change is also vital to give the new Taskforce real teeth, “It will be all bark and no bite if the Migrant Workers Taskforce has no capacity to force companies, organisations and employers to be more accountable.”

“7-Eleven continues to drag its heels with repayments to workers, even though Maurice Blackburn has recovered over $1 million in wages owing to workers, since May, with only had four cases determined and over $5 million in wages owing to our clients more than a year after this was uncovered.”

“We know the rampant underpayment at 7-Eleven is just the very tip of the iceberg – we need to be prepared to deal with what the Taskforce will uncover.”

“Maurice Blackburn have had calls from migrant workers in the hospitality, fast food and agricultural industries that are also falling victim to horrendous exploitation and what is ultimately wage theft,” said Mr Sivaraman.

“While the appointment of Professor Fels to the taskforce is a good first step the Turnbull Government must now make good on its pre-election commitment to protect migrant workers and stamp out exploitation,” said Mr Dwyer.

“We now call on the Government to deliver the tough new penalties promised before the election including a tenfold increase in fines and new powers for the regulator to hold franchisors who fail to manage worker exploitation accountable for any wage abuse in their stores.”

“Additionally, we call on the Government make amendments to the franchising codes that will to provide fairness and equity for employees, franchisees and the franchisors.”

“The exploitation of up to 20,000 employees in 7–Eleven and potentially many other franchises across the country demands strong and decisive action.”

“We’ve set up a 24 hour help line to provide information and support to these vulnerable migrant workers who have been taken advantage of.”

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