Original Article : http://www.weeklytimesnow.com.au/news/national/seasonal-farm-services-and-ram-kumar-fined-over-underpayments/news-story/ddf3863338760d90c1e751114261ed0f
Seasonal Farm Services and Ram Kumar fined over underpayments
A QUEENSLAND labour hire firm has been fined just over $102,000 for underpaying 144 employees supplied to pick and pack fruit and vegetables on farms.
Queensland man Ram Kumar has been penalised $17,000 and his labour-hire company, Seasonal Farm Services Pty Ltd, has been penalised a further $85,000.
The penalties were imposed in the Brisbane Federal Circuit Court in Brisbane early last month, while the presiding Judge Salvatore Vasta handed down his written reasons for the ruling last week.
Mr Kumar admitted to the court his company had underpaid 144 employees a total of $60,780 from June 2014 to June 2015.
The court also found Mr Kumar and his company contravened record-keeping laws including by failing to keep any records for a further 70 employees who were paid piece rates.
The lack of records prevented the employment regulator Fair Work Ombudsman from assessing whether the additional 70 employees had received their minimum lawful entitlements.
Judge Vasta said the record keeping contraventions were “extremely serious”, noting the impact it had on working out the amount the employees who were paid piece rates were underpaid.
He said the lack of records made the FWO investigation extremely difficult.
“There is no way of ascertaining whether or not the breaches of the Fair Work Act 2009 were even more blatant than what the investigation discovered,” Judge Vasta said.
Seasonal Farm Services was investigated as part of the Fair Work national harvest trail inquiry aimed at addressing noncompliance in the horticulture industry.
All the underpaid staff were supplied to pick and pack fruit and vegetables on a number of farms in Queensland’s Lockyer Valley.
Most of the employees were overseas workers from Asia, Europe and the UK who were in Australia on 417 working holiday visas at the time with three aged as young as 19.
The Seasonal Farm Services workers were generally paid flat rates ranging from $16 to $18.50 an hour.
However, as casual employees under the Horticulture Industry Award, the pickers and packers were entitled to be paid $21.09 an hour, with the supervisor entitled to $22.31. The largest individual underpayment was $2820.