One of Australia’s large supermarket chains was caught grossly underpaying their staff, to the tune of billions of dollars. This has deservedly drawn ire and criticism, leading the company to publish full page apologies in local newspapers and online.

This leads to some obvious questions:

  • Why aren’t we surprised when this happens?

  • Why are staff always underpaid in these scandals? Why is it almost never the other way?

  • Why can a business underpay their staff and apologise, but a staff member would earn prison time for doing the reverse?

  • Why does our economy incentivise bad-faith acting and superficial contrition when caught, as a profitable cost of doing business? Or put another way, why does the system tolerate this?

If these questions sound at all controversial or cynical, that’s an additional concern.