Unite urged the government to take stronger action against “bad bosses” that aren’t paying staff their full salary. It said the UK should imprison employers found guilty of “wage theft”, just like they are in the US.
Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said: “The government needs to crack down further on employers who failed to pay the National Minimum Wage to some of the most low-paid and vulnerable workers in the country.
“The fact that the government has mounted only 13 prosecutions for non-compliance since 2007 is pathetic. In America, bad bosses are jailed and heavily fined for ‘wage theft’, which is what this is; exploiting workers in such a shameful fashion.”
‘All hell would break loose’
If “top executives” failed to receive their full pay, then “all hell would break loose”, Turner added.
A Minimum Living Wage of £10 an hour must be introduced to address the growing levels of poverty, the union said. Enforcement agencies should receive bigger funding for better resources, it added.
The union’s claims came after BEIS revealed 14 food and drink firms failed to pay staff their full wages. Food and drink workers were owed £36,000, the government department revealed.
Convenience food manufacturer Greencore owed 22 employees almost £1,700 in wages. It blamed an “administrative error” for leaving its Hull workers short-changed.
The BEIS’s list of named and shamed employers was its largest ever, the government department said. The full list revealed £995,233 was owed to 15,520 workers.
Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs issued penalties totalling about £800,000, it said.
‘Government will ensure they get it’
Business minister Margot James said: “Every worker in the UK is entitled to at least the national minimum wage or National Living Wage, and this government will ensure they get it.
“That is why we have named and shamed more than 350 employers who failed to pay the legal minimum, sending the clear message to employers that minimum wage abuses will not go unpunished.”
The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) supported the business ministers’ statement.
An FDF spokesman told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “The majority of FDF members already pay above the National Living Wage, paying staff competitively according to market conditions.
“FDF and its members strongly support the work being undertaken in this area by the HMRC’s national minimum wage enforcement team to ensure all companies are adhering to the national minimum wage to create a fair and level playing field, and prevent exploitation within the labour market.”