ABCC Recovers $1m In Backpay For Construction Workers And Tradies

Published July 05, 2019 (last updated July 17, 2020)

The Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) has announced it has recovered $1 million in wages for 1400 workers.

The construction industry watchdog audited 350 employers and undertook 100 investigations into alleged underpayments.

ABCC Commissioner Stephen McBurney said these findings were a reminder to the industry to make sure they were paying their employees the correct award rate.

“The $1 million milestone achieved this week demonstrates our commitment to ensuring we are fulfilling our statutory mandate as a full service regulator,” McBurney said.

The ABCC’s biggest haul was $115,000, paid back to seven bricklayers in Queensland, after their employer failed to adhere to an enterprise agreement,

In New South Wales, they successfully had $57,000 back paid to five carpentry apprentices, who weren’t paid the correct award, and $54,000 for formwork workers.

A failure to pay correct overtime and other allowances meant that a labour hire firm in Western Australia had to back pay $23,500 to 67 workers, and a scaffolding operation in the Northern Territory had to pay about $1,000 each to 10 workers.

The ABCC is also in the process of taking an Victorian company to court, after they allegedly failed to pay a labourer $22,000 and then threatened to sack him after he chased up his outstanding wages.

“Some of the problems we commonly identify include non-payment of allowances, failure to pay minimum wage rates, failure to keep proper records and confusion about the correct industrial instrument,” McBurney said.

“We stand ready to assist any employer who is unsure of the legal obligations or any worker who believes they have not been paid what they are owed.”

With its reliance on casual labour, strict legislation and challenging safety regulations, employers in the construction industry are regular users of Employsure’s services. Employers in the construction industry make up 15% of Employsure’s client base.

Employsure’s Advice Services Team Leader Natalie Smith strongly suggests employers in the construction industry nail down the status of their employees to avoid getting stung for underpayment and other breaches of the Fair Work Act.

“With much construction work being project based, employers often want the commitment of a permanent employee, with the flexibility of a casual employee,” Smith says.

“This unique relationship creates a number of issues for both parties.

“The most common question that employers in the construction industry raise with Employsure is regarding the rules and regulations surrounding hiring casual and daily hire staff.

“Employers are right to be concerned about this issue, permanent employees and contractors have very different entitlements and it’s important that employers ensure they have defined the employment relationship correctly.”

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