Fair Work blitz uncovers thousands in lost wages

THE Fair Work Ombudsman has recovered $5200 from a Daylesford business for paying less than minimum wage to a food and beverage attendant.

The payout came after Fair Work inspectors randomly visited businesses throughout the western district, including Hepburn Shire and Ballarat.

Fair Work Ombudsman Nicholas Wilson said that when Fair Work inspectors identified a problem and contacted a business, most employers checked their records and, realising a problem has occurred, fixed it immediately.

Former Daylesford hospitality worker Lee* wasn’t surprised by the Fair Work ‘blitz’ in Hepburn Shire.

She filed a complaint with the Fair Work Ombudsman late last year.

“I was being paid below the award rate,” she said.

“At the beginning I was working three or four consecutive days of 12-hour shifts, and you’re on your feet all the time. I was working on weekends and nights.

“When I got my first payslip and it didn’t seem right, I questioned them.

“They said I was too much effort and not a good worker when I asked about it.

“I know from the same business there were four or five people who had the same thing happen to them.

“When they tried to talk to the bosses, they didn’t get given any other shifts.”

Lee then contacted the Fair Work Ombudsman who encouraged her to negotiate with the business first.

When that didn’t work, she opened up a claim, but was unable to obtain the paperwork she needed for a strong case.

“A lot of young kids are basically employed during the conference and wedding season and they hack it out for a few weeks,” Lee said.

“Unless you have your driver’s licence you’re really restricted to work in Daylesford and Hepburn.

“Public transport is no good for shift work.”

Lee encouraged young workers to educate themselves about their working conditions and wages.

“I’m sure most businesses abide by the rules, it’s only a small minority that exploit their workers,” she said.

“It’s not worth being mistreated and disrespected.

“Good businesses start with good staff.

“It would be very taxing on them to keep training people up.

Lee said she would be taking some time off so she would feel positive going into a new position.

The random blitz recovered almost $60,000 in lost wages and entitlements for workers across Ballarat, Maryborough and Daylesford.

Co-owner of the Chocolate Mill in Mt Franklin Chris Weippert said it was important employees knew what their minimum hourly wage was and the penalty rates for working weekends.

“There are so many people who come here to look for work,” he said.

“You’ve got people who are working to support families who are getting ripped off.

“This is something that’s been going on forever.”

Mr Weippert was so fed up with the exploitation of workers in Daylesford and Hepburn that he considered advertising the award rates in The Advocate last year.

“I wanted to run an ad outlining awards and penalties so people are aware of what they should be getting.

“You should be getting your super and leave entitlements and if you’re not then you should be on casual rates, which are higher.

“Also beware of being underpaid on a trial basis that lasts longer than a couple of days,” he said.

Under the Hospitality Industry (General) Award 2010, the Food and Beverage level 1 worker’s minimum wage is $15.96/hr.

The award penalties for working on Saturday are 125 per cent, Sunday 175 per cent and public holidays 250 per cent.

Employers or employees seeking information and advice should visit www.fairwork.gov.au

*Name changed to protect former employee’s identity

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