Ai Group's Victorian Head, Tim Piper, said: "The so-called 'wage theft' legislation is divisive and the timing is terrible. This legislation sends the wrong message to employers and employees and undermines the need to maintain bipartisanship during the ongoing and finely balanced industrial relations negotiations. Its loaded language creates a poor perception of employers, which is totally unfair to the vast majority of businesses doing the right thing.
"One of the five working groups announced by the Federal Government will address the topic of compliance and enforcement, and wage underpayments are central to this topic. The working group will present an opportunity to search for consensus on this topic. It's notable that some senior union leaders have expressed the view that criminal penalties for underpayments are not the answer.
"Most underpayments are inadvertent and there are heavy civil penalties in place to discourage the activity and these penalties have been increased substantially in recent times. It should not be a criminal offence.
"In order not to interfere with or damage what could happen federally, the Victorian Government should at least delay its 'wage theft' legislation.
"With the current economic situation it is up to employees and employers to work together to create a revitalised economy," Mr Piper said.
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