The Fair Work Ombudsman has commenced legal action in the Federal Circuit Court against WA labour-hire business, Corporation Sun Pty Ltd, and its part-owner and chief executive, Michael Le.
The regulator alleges that Corporation Sun and Le breached the Fair Work Act by failing to comply with a Compliance Notice requiring the company to back-pay $20,011 to 11 underpaid workers.
Fair Work Inspectors investigated after receiving requests for assistance from workers and formed a reasonable belief that employees were paid unlawfully low rates for sorting and packing fruit at Taddei Orchards, near Gingin.
Inspectors then issued Corporation Sun with a Compliance Notice requiring the business to rectify the alleged underpayments. Specifically, the Compliance Notice required Corporation Sun to back pay underpaid overtime and penalty rates for afternoon, night, weekend, and public holiday work under the Horticulture Award 2010, as well as unpaid annual leave entitlements.
The affected workers are all Taiwanese nationals, aged between 22 and 30, who were in Australia on working holiday visas. The FWO alleges the employees were underpaid between $290 to $3,433 for work performed between January and October 2017.
Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker says compliance notices are an important tool for inspectors to recover unpaid wages for workers.
“Under the Fair Work Act, Inspectors can issue a Compliance Notice if they have a reasonable belief that an employer has breached workplace laws,” Ms Parker said. “Employers must comply with Compliance Notices unless they decide to challenge a Notice in court.
“The Fair Work Ombudsman is cracking down on the alleged underpayment of vulnerable workers in the horticulture sector. We will continue to audit businesses suspected of unpaying workers, and utilise our full suite of enforcement tools to hold employers to account.”
The FWO is seeking penalties against Corporation Sun and Le. The maximum penalties for failing to comply with a compliance notice are $31,500 for Corporation Sun and $6300 for Mr Le.
The FWO is also seeking a Court Order requiring the company to rectify the underpayments in full. A directions hearing has been listed in the Federal Circuit Court in Perth for 16 September 2019.