National Gallery of Victoria A ‘Stressful’, Underpaying Workplace

Published October 17, 2019 (last updated July 21, 2020)

The National Gallery of Victoria has been found to be underpaying its staff, with the underpayment uncovered after a wider probe into the workplace culture of the gallery after numerous reports of a ‘stressful’ workplace were made

The Herald Sun reports many employees have claimed that they were bullied, amongst a number of “alarming” reports about stress and pressure at the gallery.

Greg Smith, CFA chair and industrial arbitration expert, is looking into the matter and holding “facilitated discussions” with NGV workers.

The underpaid employees were thought to be casuals doing three-hour shifts. The staff were meant to be paid for a minimum of three hours, but some were rostered for less work and not paid their full entitlements.

The NGV blamed a “new staff rostering system”, according to the Herald sun.

“From January to June 2019, a small number of staff were paid a figure that was less than three hours.

“The total amount across all relevant staff was approximately $2000.

“The NGV has since ensured these staff are rostered and paid for a minimum three-hour shift and will be recompensed accordingly.”

This is not the first organisation that has been roped in the underpayment controversy, and this case may add to the growing push to introduce tougher workplace laws, such as wage theft and industrial manslaughter laws

The Victorian Premier, Daniel Andrews, last year promised to introduce so-called wage theft laws to crack down on the cases of deliberate underpayment.

“Every worker has the right to get a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work — the simple fact is underpaying workers is theft and it’s time it’s treated like that in our laws,” Andrews said

Recently, Sunglass Hut, a major Australian retailer, has admitted that it underpaid its 620 workers $2.3 million. The Fair Work Ombudsman has asked Luxottica Retail Australia, who operates as Sunglass Hut, to issue a formal apology letter for avoiding prosecution, repay outstanding wages, and make a “contrition” payment of $50,000.

In another case, MADE Establishment where George Calombaris is one of the directors, underpaid its staff $7.8 million over six years. The company was then ordered to repay the outstanding salaries to its employees, in addition to a $200,000 contrition payment.

Other big companies that have underpaid their staff include franchises like Pizza Hut, 7-Eleven, Caltex, and Domino’s.

However, many small businesses have hit back at the Morrison government’s plan to criminalize wage theft, saying that not every time its wage theft and sometimes it can be owing to “honest mistakes.”

Talking to the Sydney Morning Herald, Iain Ross, the president of Fair Work Commission, said he understands such concerns and the simplification of this system can aid employers to pay their staff correctly.

Kate Carnell, Small Business and Enterprise Ombudsman, agreed to this, “We need to make it easier for people to comply with the law.”

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