16 May 2019

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The introduction of a tribunal for unpaid wage and entitlement claims could be a game-changer for underpaid workers in Australia, according to legal experts.
Labor leader Bill Shorten announced the move on Wednesday saying “we’ve seen too many examples of systemic wage theft but lengthy and costly court proceedings prevent and deter workers from recovering wage underpayments”.

The plan would see a new tribunal attached to the Fair Work Commission that workers could call on to investigate their complaints.

“It’s an excellent idea,” said Giri Sivaraman, employment law principal at lawyers Maurice Blackburn. “At the moment, if a worker wants to pursue a breach of award they have to go to the Federal Court or Federal Circuit Court which is slow and costly.

“The tribunal would be fast and practical, more industrial and less legal [because it would be attached to the existing Fair Work Commission],” Mr Sivaraman said.

Bassina Farbenblum, a law lecturer at the University of NSW, said the proposed tribunal could dramatically affect wages law enforcement.

“A key element would be that it’s cheap and easy to access and assists workers in putting claims together.

 This would be a game-changer for vulnerable workers

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