A Rockhampton-based company is currently facing legal action over the alleged underpayment of several temporary foreign workers.
Last month the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) launched a legal action against the Rockhampton business, Alertvale Pty Ltd, in the Federal Circuit Court.
The company—which operates several businesses in the mining and heavy industry sector—had previously sponsored two Filipino foreign nationals on 457 visas for over a year.
However, in February 2016 the business terminated their employment without notice, and then allegedly underpaid them four weeks’ worth of entitlements. The workers combined underpayment totalled almost $10,000.
According to a spokesperson for Alertvale, the decision to terminate their employment was based on a “significant downturn in business”.
It has also been alleged that the company failed to pay the workers the additional wages that they were entitled to in-lieu-of-notice-of-termination, while also unlawfully deducting $1,915 from their wages for training.
The workers subsequently approached the FWO for assistance, and following an investigation legal action was commenced, prompting Alertvale to backpay the workers. The current Acting FWO, Kristen Hannah, said that a decision was made to commence legal proceedings due to the vulnerability of the foreign workers, and the significant amount of wages that they were deprived of.
“Alertvale has employed a number of 457 visa holders and it is important that we impress upon the company the need to pay these workers their full lawful entitlements,” Hannah said.
Hannah explained that many migrant workers often lacked awareness of their legal entitlements within Australia and face significant language barriers when trying to lodge a complaint.
The case also serves as an important reminder for employers to ensure that they meet their foreign worker sponsorship requirements, even when terminating employment.
Alertvale’s failure to pay the workers’ entitled wages will see them facing penalties of up to $54,000 per contravention for multiple breaches of workplace Australian law. A hearing to determine the matter is currently scheduled to commence in Federal Circuit Court on June 4 later this year.
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