The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) has begun legal action against a “major” NSW service-station chain for allegedly underpaying 22 employees.
The FWO claims underpayment of $62,393 took place at 12 sites across regional NSW between July 2015 and May 2016.
Facing the federal circuit court is Westside Petroleum Retail 1 Pty Ltd and three of its management staff. They are General Manager Patrick Riad, Company Accountant Francesco Ieraci, and Area Manager Shahzaib Khawaja. Each took part in the company’s breaches, the FWO alleges.
During the audit period, the 12 sites were each company-operated. However, Westside service stations are often franchisee-operated. The FWO says it makes no allegations against any franchisee operator.
The FWO alleges the service-station underpaid its workers from $347 to $7,772. Four of the employees were just 19 years-old at the time. Two affected workers were visa holders. One had a 489 regional sponsored visa.
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Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) Sandra Parker says inspectors audited Westside Petroleum after its employees got in touch.
“The FWO has no tolerance for the underpayment of any workers,” Ms Parker said. “We encourage any workers with concerns about their pay to contact us for free advice.
The allegations are as follows. The company told employees they would receive a net rate of $18 per hour. Payroll staff then payed gross weekly amounts generally equating to about $18 per hour net. This, claims the FWO, led to underpayments of the employees’ casual weekday, weekend, public-holiday and overtime rates under the Vehicle Manufacturing, Repair, Services and Retail Award.
The FWO says workers on adult rates under this Award were entitled to:
- Gross hourly wages of $25.05 on weekdays
- $32.56 on weekends and public holidays
- Plus an additional $14.21 for overtime hours.
“It’s unlawful for employers to pay their employees low, flat rates that undercut minimum Award wage rates. Those who rely on an unlawful ‘going rate’ can face a major back-payment bill and significant penalties.”
The company faces penalties of up to $54,000 per contravention. Mr Riad, Mr Ieraci and Mr Khawaja each face penalties of up to $10,800 per contravention.
The FWO says all employees have now been backpaid in full. A directions hearing at the federal circuit court in Sydney will take place on 12 April.