Super fails robbing workers of millions


THALES Australia boss Chris Jenkins is used to signing lots of documents.

The ones he no doubt enjoyed signing include the billion-dollar combat vehicle contract with the Australian Defence Force.

But four weeks ago Mr Jenkins had to sign one that does not reflect well on Thales - a court-enforceable undertaking with the Fair Work Ombudsman admitting workers had been short-changed $7.4 million, including as much as $1 million in super and interest.

Thales Australia CEO Chris Jenkins. Source: Facebook
Thales Australia CEO Chris Jenkins. Source: Facebook

Only one case pursued by the FWO has involved a larger amount - the action finalised in July this year against celebrity chef George Calombaris's MAdE hospitality empire, which short-changed workers $7.8 million, including super.

George Calombaris on ABC’s 7.30 after MAdE was caught. Source: ABC
George Calombaris on ABC’s 7.30 after MAdE was caught. Source: ABC

It comes as the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) - armed with a bigger stick and better information than ever before - is preparing to launch an unprecedented attack on 3500 employers for failing to pay workers superannuation on time or at all.

After 15 months of analysing previously unavailable data, the ATO has identified 500 companies that did not pay super in two or more quarters of the 2018-19 financial year, as well as 3000 that only did so long after deadlines passed.

It is thought that at least 25,000 employees at these businesses have been short-changed super. That intelligence has emerged from scrutinising 75 million transactions captured using improved information collection powers brought in by the federal Coalition in 2017.

"The ATO is increasingly better placed to identify and target specific super non-payment through earlier identification of employers who have potentially not paid," superannuation deputy commissioner James O'Halloran said.

Courtesy of new laws that came into effect in April, the ATO can seek to jail those who have the wherewithal to make good on what they owe but refuse to do so.

In October it will write to the 500 employers the data suggests are rogues and 3000 likely recalcitrants flagging they are in its crosshairs.

If after discussions it is confirmed that obligations have not been met, the businesses will be told how much they must pay their workers and by when.

Penalties of up to 200 per cent of what is outstanding could also apply.

An employer that does not pay after being told to do so could be sentenced to up to 12 months behind bars.