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Hard Labour : wage theft in the age of inequality - Ben Schneiders

Hard Labour

wage theft in the age of inequality

By: Ben Schneiders

Paperback | 18 October 2022

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A startling investigation of how some of Australia's best-known companies have abused their power to systematically underpay their workers in recent years.

Whether it's at McDonald's, Coles, 7-Eleven, Woolworths, the major banks, high-end restaurants, or on farms, wage theft has become endemic. Billions of dollars have been unlawfully taken from workers at countless businesses, large and small.

Hard Labour is an examination of why this has occurred and what it says about inequality and power in twenty-first century Australia. It tells the stories of individual workers, temporary migrants, and those without influence and connections. It also describes how many businesses - whether owned by private equity or wealthy families, or operating through tax havens or on the stock exchange - have structured themselves to avoid paying minimum wages.

Drawing on years of extensive research, economic data, and hundreds of interviews, Ben Schneiders puts the issue of wage theft in a broader context to describe how the loss of worker power in Australia has led to rising inequality and what this means for our democracy. Hard Labour examines some of the shifts of power in Australian history between capital and labour - from the living-wage Harvester decision of 1907 to the Accord of the 1980s, the rise of neoliberalism, and the continuing decline of the union movement.

Hard Labour shows the scale of the wage-theft problem, and what needs to be done to change what is, in effect, a massive rip-off of ordinary workers.

About the Author

Ben Schneiders is an investigative journalist at The Age. His reporting has exposed more than two dozen companies for wage underpayment, including some of the biggest names in corporate Australia. He is a Walkley Award-winning reporter, and has won the industrial relations reporting award four times. He regularly reports on work, social issues, politics, and business.
Industry Reviews
'Age journalist Ben Schneiders has broken major stories of employee underpayments involving some of the biggest names in business ... It's hard to overstate how essential Schneiders' book is to our understanding of how worker rights and wages have been steadily eroded over decades by both Labor and Liberal governments. Hard Labour is a vital and illuminating contribution to the equality debate that deserves a wide readership.' -Chris Saliba, Books+Publishing

'One of this country's finest journalists reveals how shocking exploitation has been normalised in Australia.' -Jeff Sparrow

'Schneiders uses his skills as an acclaimed investigative journalist to expose the hidden crisis of inequality and power inequity that is fuelling Australia's growing underclass. This meticulously researched book is not just required reading for lovers of history, economics, and politics but, like much of Schneiders' work, is a call to arms to help those enduring working conditions that should shame us all.' -Nick McKenzie

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