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Sydney printer in court over $230,000 underpaid wages

Wednesday, 08 May 2019
By Wayne Robinson

Sydney print finishing business Mega Tabs Services and manager Lloyd Lam will face court on 17 June, for ignoring a Fair Work compliance order to repay 14 Korean migrant workers $229,564 in underpaid wages.

However Lam told Print21 that he was co-operating with the Commission, but said, “We are asking for a schedule, we don’t have the money to pay it all at once. Business is slow.”

Lam said “The underpayments came from a lack of understanding of overtime and penalty rates. We are trying to pay back the money, but it is not easy.”

Fair Work inspectors issued a compliance notice to the company last July requiring it to pay $229,564 to the workers within a month, but the notice was not complied with. Individual workers – who were allegedly paid a flat $13 an hour rate – are owed between $4105 and $36,666. 

According to Fair Work, Mega Tabs did not seek a review of the notice nor did it offer a “reasonable excuse” for not complying. Not responding to a Fair Work compliance notice leads to court, where if a court order is ignored the penalties can be severe, under contempt of court rulings.

The workers, in Australia from Korea on 417 working holiday visas, were allegedly paid a flat hourly rate of $13 to cut, glue and assemble paper and cardboard at the company’s Alexandria premises in inner Sydney between November 2013 and November 2015.

This allegedly led to underpayments of base rates of pay, casual loading, afternoon and night shift allowances, public holiday penalty rates and overtime rates owed under the Graphic Arts, Printing and Publishing Award.

For example, workers were allegedly entitled to combined base rates and casual loading of between $20.63 and $21.69 per hour, and penalty rates of up to $54 per hour. Individual workers were allegedly owed between $4,105 and $36,666.

In July last year, Fair Work Inspectors issued a Compliance Notice to the company requiring it to pay $229,564 to the 14 workers by 27 August last year, which the FWO claims was not complied with.

Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said Compliance Notices are an important enforcement tool for the regulator.

“Under the Fair Work Act, business operators must not fail to comply with Compliance Notices without a reasonable excuse, unless they make a Court application for a review if they seek to challenge a Notice.”

“The Fair Work Ombudsman enforces Compliance Notices to assist employees and protect the integrity of the workplace relations system,” Parker said.

“We will continue to prioritise any requests for assistance from migrant workers, who can be particularly vulnerable due to language or cultural barriers, or visa status.”

The Fair Work Ombudsman seeks orders for the company and Lam to be liable to pay the $229,564, plus interest. In addition, the company faces a penalty of up to $31,500 and Lam of up to $6,300.

A directions hearing is listed in the Federal Circuit Court in Sydney on 17 June.

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