Wage theft is a "massive" issue and workers should have easy access to tribunals to get money owed to them, ACTU secretary Sally McManus says.
She said it was vital that workers who were underpaid were able to get their backpay "quickly and simply".
"If a worker takes their employer to court to get the money they are owed in can be expensive and take years," Ms McManus said.
"Wage theft is a massive issue and if we had quick, low-cost tribunals where workers could go that would be much fairer.
"You take celebrity chefs and multi-nationals and ask 'why do they do it'?
"They do it because they can get away with it.
"If you wash dishes you're at a disadvantage to George Calombaris."
Restaurants associated with Mr Calombaris were forced to backpay more than 500 staff staff nearly $8 million.
The underpayments were made over six years.
Ms McManus was in Hobart on Friday to address Unions Tasmania's annual women's conference.
It is 50 years since unions won the first equal pay case for women in 1969.
She urged the 100 women at the conference to keep fighting for wage equality.
"We have to fight economic inequality where the average woman earns less than the average man," Ms McManus said.
"There is a 14 per cent difference and that hasn't moved much in the past 35 years.
"The main reason is women are in jobs that are valued less including child care and aged care - these are caring jobs that in the past were done for free."
Ms McManus said women in Switzerland had this year gone on strike to protest at gender inequality and sexism.
"It is a big struggle but the important lesson is that while there will be setbacks we must keep fighting," she said.
Ms McManus conceded union membership had plummeted but said that was because of "hostile" changes made by former Prime Minister John Howard.
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