Employer ordered to pay over $200,000 in fines and backpay

A Melbourne service station has been ordered to pay fines of over $92,000 for underpaying 2 Indian workers some $111,000 as well as breaching pay-slip and record-keeping obligations.

Two console operators at the BP service station on Clyde Road at Berwick were paid as little as $10 an hour for over 4 years while they were holding temporary visas. From the statement released by the Fair Work Ombudsman, it seems that they started proceedings via the Ombudsman after they were granted permanent residence.

Following legal action by the Fair Work Ombudsman, service station operator Liquid Fuel Pty Ltd was fined $79,537 by the Federal Circuit Court. Husband-and-wife managers Xin Zhang and Linda Qu have also each been fined $4504 and a penalty of $3861 imposed against company director Nian Li, who is Ms Qu’s father.

Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James says a decision was made to commence legal action because of the blatant nature of the underpayments and the involvement of vulnerable overseas workers.

According to the FWO the 2 workers were paid flat rates ranging from $10 to $17 an hour, resulting in underpayment of their minimum hourly rates, casual loadings and penalty rates for overtime, weekend and public holiday work.

The employees were entitled to receive up to $27 an hour for some work they performed.

In his judgement Judge O’Sullivan found there was “an absence of genuine contrition or remorse on the part of all of the respondents and only platitudes offered once they had been found out”.

Ms James says the penalties send a clear message that exploitation of minimum wage employees – particularly those from overseas – is serious conduct and that significant consequences apply.

Formal allegations of non-compliance to the Fair Work Ombudsman from overseas workers have increased steadily in recent years to more than 2100 last financial year. A total of $1.6 million was recovered for visa-holders in 2014-15, up from $1.1 million the previous financial year.

Allegations received from overseas workers were highest in Queensland (28 per cent); NSW (25 per cent) and Victoria (22 per cent).

Employers and employees seeking assistance can visit www.fairwork.gov.au or contact the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94.