The Federal Circuit Court has penalised a businessman and his former human resources manager for ‘what a Judge has labelled “appalling” and “objectionable” conduct affecting vulnerable workers’.
‘Travice Blom – former operator of recruitment and labour-hire company Oz Staff Career Services – was penalised $14,960 for unlawfully deducting $130,000 from the wages of 102 Melbourne cleaners and falsifying pay records to hide the practice’.
His former human resources manager Alex Linossi was also been penalised $9920 for ‘his part in facilitating some of the unlawful deductions and the false records’.
Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James said that “the penalties send a message that anyone involved in deliberately operating a business model that involves the exploitation of workers can face serious repercussions”.
[quote]“We are prepared to use the accessorial liability provisions of the Fair Work Act, where it is in the public interest, to hold anyone to account for their involvement in exploiting workers,” stated Ms James. “This can include human resources and payroll officers, line managers, accountants and advisors and this means that even if a company is liquidated, it’s no guarantee of avoiding the consequences of non-compliance with the Fair Work Act.”[/quote]
Many of the exploited cleaners were overseas, migrant and young workers who were supplied to work at the Crown Casino and Federation Square.
‘Administration fees of around $25 a week were deducted from employees’ wages between December 2011 and May 2013. Lesser amounts for ‘meal fees’ were deducted in 2012 and 2013.’
‘The deductions were unlawful because they were not principally for the benefit of the employees and employees had not authorised them in accordance with workplace laws. Almost all workers have now been back-paid in full.’
Judge Philip Burchardt found that “the contraventions were deliberate and described them as ‘an appalling course of conduct’”.
[quote]“This objectionable conduct has been exacerbated by the falsification of records issues,” he said. “It was not enough that these unlawful deductions were made, the respondents saw fit to be involved in endeavours quite plainly to conceal them. Creating and keeping false records and then producing them to try and defeat an audit is, at least in terms of the sort of conduct it represents, about as serious as it gets.”[/quote]