Labor Leader Anthony Albanese has branded Bunnings underpaying some workers’ superannuation for almost a decade as “wage theft”.
The hardware giant has blamed an error in its payroll for the issue affecting mainly part-time employees who worked more than their annual contracted hours from the 2011/2012 financial year onwards.
“That is wage theft,” Mr Albanese told reporters in Sydney on Friday.
“I want to see a government that actually cares that workers’ entitlements are met, that cares about the need to increase wages for the benefit of the economy.”
Bunnings has promised to hand back-pay and compensation to employees, but the full scope of the underpayments has not been revealed.
The company apologised to workers and says it has fixed the issue so it won’t happen again.
Mr Albanese said workers had been ripped off.
“It is a good thing that the Bunnings workforce are going to receive their entitlements but how is it that this was allowed to occur unchecked for year after year after year on this government’s watch,” he said.
“What’s the government’s plan to ensure workers should be compensated?”
The Morrison government has released a discussion paper with the intention to legislate serious criminal penalties aimed at stamping out wage theft.
But Attorney-General Christian Porter says employers who make genuine mistakes and fix them quickly will avoid a criminal record.
The Bunnings issue comes days after it emerged Sunglass Hut workers were underpaid $2.3 million in penalty rates over nearly six years.
The company won’t be prosecuted, but instead pay a $50,000 “contrition” payment.
A spate of other underpayment scandals has rocked the hospitality and retail sectors in recent years.