Transport a wages target

THE transport and retail industries are possible targets for the Western Australian Government’s next campaign of checking wages records.

Based on past experience, the Department of Consumer and Employment Protection can expect to find numerous employers failing to keep proper records.

During 2002, government inspectors found more than $900,000 in unpaid entitlements after auditing nearly 400 restaurants and hotels.

DOCEP acting director compliance and education Brian Appleby said campaigns targeting specific industry sectors would continue.

“We have always taken a very strong line on checking time and wages records, both in response to complaints and as part of our education and audit programs,” Mr Appleby said.

He said the Government did not intend to follow the ‘across-the-board’ approach of the New South Wales Government.

The NSW Government plans to audit time and wages records covering 300,000 workers at 27,000 workplaces during the next three years, after shifting from a passive complaints-based model to active regulation.

“We already have a program of campaigns that target specific industry sectors,” Mr Appleby said.

“Transport and possibly retail are two of the industries we are looking at for our next campaign.”

Mr Appleby said retail and transport accounted for a large proportion of formal investigations of industrial award breaches.

The only industry to generate more formal investigations was hospitality, which was the target of last year’s two campaigns

A total of 306 restaurants and cafes were audited and 98 per cent were found to have breaches, amounting to $783,000 of unpaid entitlements.

Mr Appleby said the high rate of breaches might have reflected the major award changes in the industry prior to the campaign.

This was despite the information and education program run by the department prior to launching its audit campaign.

In the hotel industry, 77 businesses were audited and $133,000 of unpaid entitlements were found.

Mr Appleby said no prosecutions were launched in either industry, with all matters resolved voluntarily.

However, Gadens Lawyers national workplace relations partner Allan Drake-Brockman said employers were very concerned about the risk of prosecution for award breaches.

“With the abolition of State Workplace Agreements not all employers can go on to Federal Australian Workplace Agreements,” he said.

“This means employers have to revert to outdated State industrial awards. 

“In my experience many of these do not reflect the current patterns of work in the industries they are supposed to cover.

“Overtime and penalty rates are classic examples of these problems.

“There is an urgent need for the State Government and industry organisations to initiate steps to modernise State industrial awards if they have not already done so.”

As well as hospitality, other industries to be targeted in audit campaigns in recent years have included childcare, cleaning and security.

Mr Appleby said these industries, along with hairdressing, continued to be among the most common areas for formal award breach investigations.

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