Mildura Weekly : February 28 2014 Vol 8 No 17
www.milduraweekly.com.au 8 Mildura Weekly – 28/02/14 THE operators of a Mildura company who failed to apol- ogise to an employee who was underpaid over a six year period have been fined al- most $50,000 in the Federal Circuit Court in Melbourne. Mildura Battery Com- pany Pty Ltd, which operates a wholesale battery business, was penalised $39,270, and company director Michael John Marquick was fined a further $7854. Judge Frank Turner hand- ed down the penalties in Mel- bourne last week following legal action initiated by the Fair Work Ombudsman. Judge Turner also in- structed the company to fully rectify a $66,580 underpay- ment – the majority of which was said to be still outstand- ing – and to pay additional interest of $3230. The Court has given Mar- quick and Mildura Battery Company until March 17 to back-pay the worker all out- standing entitlements, and until May 19 to pay the pen- alty. The court heard that the employee, a store worker in his 30s, was underpaid be- tween 2007 and 2013, pri- marily because he was paid flat rates of $11.08 an hour for ordinary time, and $13.85 an hour for overtime. He was entitled to receive up to $17.63 for ordinary hours and up to $26.45 for overtime. The employee’s an- nual leave entitlements were also underpaid. The Court found that the underpayments were ini- tially “careless,” rather than deliberate, but noted they continued after the Fair Work Ombudsman identified the contraventions, describing the ongoing conduct as “de- liberate or negligent in the extreme.” In his written decision, Judge Turner said Mildura Battery Company and Mar- quick had not apologised directly to the employee, and had not displayed “a suitable and credible expression of regret” to the employee, who had suffered ‘grave’ loss. “He deposes that it was a struggle to pay his bills on time, at one stage his car broke down and he could not afford to fix it; at times he had to ride a bicycle to get around,” Judge Turner said. “The effect on his life has been profound.” Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James says Fair Work inspectors made extensive efforts to secure voluntary back-pay, but could not se- cure sufficient rectification action from the employer. “We will not hesitate to take legal action, where it is in the public interest, to en- force compliance and ensure employee entitlements are protected,” Ms James said. “This employer has now been issued with a significant penalty, in addition to an or- der to fully rectify the under- payment and pay additional interest. “Successful legal actions such as this also benefit em- ployers who are complying with workplace laws, because it helps them to compete on a level playing field.” Marquick told the Court that if a high penalty was imposed, Mildura Battery Company may go into liq- uidation, resulting in two employees losing their jobs and the underpaid employee potentially being unable to recover his entitlements. However, Judge Turner la- belled this submission “inap- propriate,” noting that “the root cause of those possible repercussions is the failure by the respondents to comply with the law.” Judge Turner observed a need for both specific and general deterrence. “Penal- ties must be imposed that will act to prevent further breach- es,” he said. “The court does not find that the penalties will be crushing or oppres- sive. They are an appropriate response to the conduct that led to the breaches.” Judge Turner dismissed the respondents’ submis- sion about media coverage of their breaches in the Sun- raysia Daily newspaper when legal action was announced last year. He accepted the Fair Work Ombudsman’s submission that embarrassment suffered as a result of the publicity flowing from an enforcement action is one of the prices to pay, or an inevitable conse- quence of their conduct. Judge Turner was also critical of the respondents’ of- fer to back-pay the employee over five years, saying; “The court finds that offer to be ab- surd, and questions the genu- ineness of any contrition.” Judge Turner found the respondents were “not pri- oritising the rectification of the underpayments over their other financial interests.” “That lack of corrective action shows that the re- spondents have learnt little of their need to comply with statutory requirements and to obtain authoritative ad- vice,” he said. “The respondents cannot say ‘we cannot afford to pay and will go into liquidation if a heavy penalty is imposed.’” Judge Turner found that to allow businesses to oper- ate in that way would create a category of underpaid work- ers who were being exploited to subsidise inefficient or otherwise unprofitable busi- ness operations. Employers and employ- ees seeking assistance can visit www.fairwork.gov.au or contact the Fair Work Info- line on 13 13 94. A free inter- preter service is available by calling 13 14 50. News from the Federal Ombudsman’s office... ‘Careless’ Mildura company cops hefty work penalities THE recent addition of three ultra-realistic mannequins at Mildura’s Monash University School of Rural Health will help put Sunraysia medical students on an equal footing with their metropolitan counterparts. The new mannequins, which can simulate the human body in an incredibly diverse range of medical conditions, will be housed in a new $250,000 ex- tension to the Mildura school’s Clinical Skills Laboratory, which was officially opened last week by Federal Member for Mallee, Andrew Broad. Former Mildura student, Emma Sanderson, who was raised and educated in the dis- trict, is now three years into her studies to become a doctor and is one of those to take advantage of the Sunraysia-based facility. The 20-year-old is in the midst of her first clinical year, which is when students move into the ‘real world’ of medicine as opposed to the theory-based first two years of their studies. Emma said the ability to come back home to continue her studies was not only a welcome convenience, but a potential ben- efit to her studies. “We might not see the more complex cases like they might see in the Al- fred Hospital or Monash Medical Centre, but they can do simulations here, which gives us equal if not better opportu- nities than people get in the cit- ies,” she said. “In the city you might just be standing at the back of the room during a really complex case, but here you’ll be right in, with the little baby or ‘sim mum’.” The three new mannequins, dubbed ‘sims’, are representa- tive of a newborn baby, a baby and a mother and were pur- chased through a $90,000 cash injection from Health Work- force Australia and $40,000 from the Mallee Health Foun- dation. Upgrade just what the doctor ordered • GOOD MEDICINE: Mildura medical student Emma Sanderson and fellow students Kavya Kudithipudi, Manila Ratnayake and Sonia Jitpiriyaroj. INSET: Monash University School of Rural Health lecturer and clinical teacher Howard Cook. Photos: DARREN SEILER. DON’T PUT RECYCLING IN PLASTIC BAGS Did yo u know if yo u put yo ur recycling in plastic bags it will end up in landfill? Put yo ur items in the recycling bin loose, so they can be sorted and recycled. To find out more visit www.getitrightbinnight.vic.gov.au or contact council.
February 21 2014 Vol 8 No 16
Friday March 7 2014 Vol 8 No 18