Many have spoken about the inadequacy of legal rights bestowed by the law, how, while on paper we are presented with a simple story of equality and a set of rules that ensures justice, such justice is often obscured, obstructed or completely absent. One of the places this is most apparent is in the failure of the law to protect the rights of workers. The law legislates minimum wages and conditions, yet there is no real enforcement to ensure that the law is met: for example, that employees are paid an appropriate wage and are in receipt of their entitlements. The consequences have been clear in recent examples of wage theft from workers in industries with some of the most precarious working conditions: 7-Eleven workers, school cleaners, temporary migrant workers (including those completing farm work for a second working-holiday visa) and hospitality workers. Wage theft is rife in Australia. A recent study by Kronos shows that 10 per cent of Australian workers, or 1 million people, have rarely, or never, received the minimum wage; that 11 per cent are not paid for all the hours they work; and that 43 per cent have, at some point, been paid less than the minimum wage. Further, 76 per cent of workers in hospitality are paid under the minimum wage, according to a study con – ducted by the union United Voice. Importantly, an audit conducted by Unions NSW showed that 78 per cent of jobs advertised in Korean, Chinese or Spanish were below the minimum award wage. On average the wage advertised was $14.05, which, according to the audit on average award wages, is $5.28 below the minimum.
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