Fruit packing company penalised over underpayments

The Federal Circuit Court has penalised Western Australian fruit-packing company Corporation Sun Pty Ltd with an $18,900 penalty and fined its chief executive officer Michael Le $3780 for workplace contraventions after find them guilty of failing to comply with a Compliance Notice issued by the Fair Work Ombudsman which that required them to back pay 11 employees.

The affected workers, all Taiwanese nationals in Australia on working holiday visas, were underpaid for work sorting and packing fruit and were aged between 22 and 30 at the time of the underpayments.

The Compliance Notice was issued in 2018 after a Fair Work Inspector determined that the workers were underpaid a combined $20,111 owed under the Horticulture Award 2010 between January and October 2017.

Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said businesses that fail to act on Compliance Notices face court-imposed penalties in addition to having to back-pay any underpaid staff.

“We make every effort to secure voluntary compliance with Compliance Notices but where they are not followed, we are prepared to take legal action to ensure workers receive their lawful entitlements,” Parker said. “Employers need to be aware that underpayment of vulnerable workers in the horticulture sector continues to be a priority for the Fair Work Ombudsman.”

Judge Christopher Kendall said that Corporation Sun and Le “were given ample opportunity to comply with the Compliance Notice” and there had been no contrition shown for their breaches.

“The respondents’ cavalier approach towards the Compliance Notice reflects an unacceptable disregard for its statutory obligations,” Judge Kendall said.

The judge also noted that the company and Le’s “failure to comply with the Compliance Notice has caused public resources to be expended on proceedings that could have, and should have, been avoided”.

In 2019-20, 44 per cent of the FWO’s litigations filed involved visa holders, with a total of $1.7 million that has been recovered. The FWO also secured nearly $3 million in court-awarded penalties through litigations involving visa holders.

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