A labour-hire company has agreed to back-pay 19 overseas workers to avoid legal action by the Fair Work Ombudsman.
It has also promised to change the way it manages its workforce to ensure wage theft will not happen again.
Brisbane-based Agri-Labour Australia signed an Enforceable Undertaking with the workplace watchdog.
The agreement requires the company to back-pay $50,823 to 19 nationals of Vanuatu employed to work as tomato pickers on a farm near Shepparton in Victoria.
Labour-hire company failed to pay proper rates
Fair Work Inspectors found Agri-Labour paid some workers a group piecework rate based on a team’s quantity picked.
However, the company’s enterprise agreement stipulates workers are to be paid based on their individual productivity.
Agri-Labour admitted it could not determine if it had paid the workers lawful amounts because it did not keep any records of the hours worked.
It also admitted to incorrectly deducting money from wages for wet weather gear and making higher deductions than those authorised in writing.
The Enforceable Undertaking
The Enforceable Undertaking requires Agri-Labour to comply with a number of undertakings.
- pay workers based on their individual productivity;
- keep accurate records of the hours they work;
- engage an external auditor to check wages and entitlements meet legal requirements;
- commission workplace relations training for management and human resources, recruitment, and also payroll staff;
- compensate its workers, with the largest individual payment of $4,591, and finally
- make a $15,000 contrition payment to the Commonwealth Government Consolidated Revenue Fund.
Agreements send wrong message
Industrial advocate Miles Heffernan from IR Claims is critical of Enforceable Undertakings.
“These cosy arrangements send the wrong message to employers who rip off their workers and also to those thinking of doing it,” he said.
“If they get caught, all they have to do is pay back what they owe, in addition to promising not to do it again, and they escape court action.”
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