Business

SA Labor promises crackdown on wage theft

SA Premier Jay Weatherill has vowed to crack down on wage theft if he's re-elected on March 17. (AAP)

The South Australian Labor government has promised to make wage theft a criminal offence if it is re-elected on March 17.

A re-elected Labor government will create a new criminal offence of wage theft to crack down on employers who knowingly rip off their workers, South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill says.

The offence will apply to employers who knowingly, recklessly or repeatedly underpay their workers or who fail to pay superannuation entitlements.

"Deliberately underpaying wages and superannuation is theft from working people," Mr Weatherill says.

"There is growing evidence that many thousands of South Australian workers are being ripped off in this way, including workers who are already vulnerable, especially young people, migrant workers and those in insecure work."

Under Labor's promise ahead of the March 17 state election, penalties would have the worst repeat offenders jailed for up to 15 years.

But the offence would only apply to deliberate underpayment of staff and not in cases of genuine error.

Mr Weatherill said there had been many recent high-profile examples of systemic wage theft including those uncovered at franchised companies.

Last year the National Temporary Migrant Work Survey also found widespread underpayment to temporary migrants in the food and hospitality industries.

A 2016 report from Industry Super Australia found workers were shortchanged about $3.6 billion a year in superannuation payments.

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