A report published by Industry Super Australia has shown many of Mackay's young labourers are missing out on super due to dodgy employers.
A report published by Industry Super Australia has shown many of Mackay's young labourers are missing out on super due to dodgy employers. alfexe

Unpaid super 'scandal' hits Mackay workers

MACKAY workers are among the hardest hit of the more than half a million Queenslanders whose super is being ripped off by dodgy employers.

New Industry Super Australia analysis of tax office data from 2016/17 by ex-Treasury official Phil Gallagher has revealed the shocking extent of the problem in the report Super Scandal, Unpaid Super Guarantee in 2016-17.

The report highlights how employers withhold super payments to prop up their own books, depriving workers of their rightful entitlements.

Data showed 550,000 workers in Queensland were missing out on $1.1 billion in unpaid super - the equivalent of close to $2000 in super payments each year.

Mackay was one of the hotspots for unpaid super in Queensland, with 22,050 people being deprived of an average of $1847 per annum.

Nationally, ISA's analysis showed young, low-income workers were most likely to be affected, with data revealing almost one in two young adults earning under $30,000 a year were underpaid their super.

Labourers, machinery operators and drivers were also at high risk of being short-changed super, with more than 43 per cent of the collective missing out on more than $800 million in super contributions.

These combined risk factors showed that 75 per cent of Australians affected were blue-collar workers, under the age of 35 making $30,000 or less.

ISA chief executive Bernie Dean called on election candidates and members of Parliament to act on the report.

"This should be a wake-up call for local candidates and members. This is daylight robbery and it cannot continue," Mr Dean said.

"Allowing employers to continue robbing workers in Mackay of their super entitlement means these workers are going to end up worse off at retirement."

Mr Dean said a simple fix would be to get the major parties to commit to solving the problem through a policy pledge.

"The easiest way to end this exploitation and ensure workers in Mackay are paid their super is to simply legislate that all employers must deposit money into a worker's super account at the same time as they deposit their salary into their bank account."

A spokeswoman for Member for Dawson George Christensen said the Federal Government had taken unprecedented steps to ensure workers received their full superannuation entitlement.

"We have passed new laws increasing penalties for employers who do not meet their obligation to pay super on behalf of their staff, strengthened the enforcement powers of the ATO to recover unpaid super, and for the first time introduced criminal penalties for employers who do repeatedly fail to meet their obligations," she said.

"We have provided an additional $20.9 million to the ATO to establish a Super Guarantee Taskforce to target employers who do not pay super as required.

"In the seven months to January, the Taskforce has recovered nearly $65 million in superannuation for workers through its proactive activities, and $307 million in response to worker complaints."

Labor candidate for Dawson Belinda Hassan said an elected Labor Government would help workers in Mackay get their unpaid superannuation from unscrupulous employers and "make sure dodgy bosses are appropriately punished".

"Scott Morrison and the Liberals have tried to give dodgy bosses who don't pay super an amnesty on penalties - letting them get away with it scot-free.

"Labor will change the law to include a right to superannuation within the National Employment Standards, which will give workers the power to pursue their unpaid superannuation.

"Currently, unpaid or underpaid employer superannuation contributions are a debt owed to the ATO, rather than the worker.

"Unless there is a clause in their award or agreement, workers can't chase this money as the money is not technically owed to them.

"By placing superannuation within the National Employment Standards in the Fair Work Act, a Shorten Labor Government will empower workers to recoup unpaid super from employers through the Fair Work Commission or the Federal Court.

"This is clearly a big problem in Mackay - only Labor will act to help local workers who have been ripped off by their bosses."

Mackay region's top five worst-hit postcodes

  • Mackay CBD; other areas in 4740
  • Moranbah; other areas in 4744
  • Airlie Beach; the Whitsundays; other areas in 4802
  • Bowen; other areas in 4805