Melbourne, May 23 (IANS) An Australian court has imposed a penalty of $60,480 on a bakery operator in Melbourne for not giving back-pay entitlements to a worker from India, thus “taking advantage of the migrant worker’s vulnerability”.
The Federal Circuit and Family Court imposed a $50,400 penalty against Gothic Downs Pty Ltd, which operates Bakers Boutique & Patisserie outlets, and a $10,080 penalty against the company’s sole director Giuseppe Conforto.
Judge Heather Riley inferred that the Indian worker, who was sponsored by Gothic Downs on a Temporary Work Skilled visa, was “vulnerable” and that the company and Conforto “took advantage of her vulnerability”.
The penalties were imposed in response to Gothic Downs failing to comply with compliance notices issued by Australian regulatory authority Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) in 2019.
The notices required the firm to calculate and back-pay entitlements to two workers, including an Indian, it employed at Bakers Boutique & Patisserie outlets in Meadow Heights and Caroline Springs between 2016 and 2018.
The FWO investigated after receiving requests for assistance from the two affected workers — one of whom was a pastry cook and the other was a sales assistant.
The probe found that Gothic Downs had underpaid the workers’ minimum wages, early morning shift rates, weekend and public holiday penalty rates and overtime rates under the General Retail Industry Award 2010, and one of the worker’s leave entitlements under the Fair Work Act’s National Employment Standards.
Judge Riley found that the breaches were deliberate and rejected the company and Conforto’s claim that they were confused about how much was owing to the workers.
“To my mind, the respondents’ protestations ring hollow, in circumstances where they did not pay even the minimum amounts that they conceded were owing until long after the compliance notices required rectification,” Judge Riley said.
He said there was a need to impose penalties at a level to provide “an adequate deterrent” for the company and “others who may be tempted to behave as they have”.
Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said business operators that fail to act on Compliance Notices need to be aware they can face penalties in court on top of having to back-pay workers.
“Employers need to be aware that taking action to protect vulnerable workers like visa holders continues to be a priority for the FWO. Any employees with concerns about their pay or entitlements should contact us for free advice and assistance,” she said.