Nick Toscano, 09 December 2015

A new wage exploitation case has led to a Melbourne service station being fined and having to backpay staff.

The operators of a BP service station in Melbourne have illegally underpaid two workers more than $100,000 in a new wage exploitation case to become public.

At BP Berwick in the city’s outer east, the two Indian console operators were given flat rates of as little as $10 an hour, well below the minimum wage.

They were also denied casual loadings and penalty rates for overtime, weekend and public holiday work.

“It was very hard to survive when I was getting paid $10 to $14 an hour,” one of the workers, Sukhpal Singh, said in an affidavit.

“At times, we would have to borrow money just to pay the rent at the end of the month.”

Investigations by Australia’s Fair Work Ombudsman led to the service station operator, Liquid Fuel, back-paying the pair more than $53,000 each, for underpayments spanning 2008-2012

And it has now been fined more than $92,000 in the Federal Circuit Court, including individual fines against the company directors.

Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James said the watchdog decided to prosecute the company because of the “blatant nature” of the underpayments and the involvement of vulnerable overseas workers.

The workers, both aged 28, were in Australia on a 496 designated area sponsored visa and a 485 temporary graduate visa when they started working for Liquid Fuel.

In his ruling last week, Judge John O’Sullivan​ said the company’s actions were “at the very least, reckless and show a disregard for their obligations”.

He also found there was an “absence of genuine contrition or remorse”.

Ms James said the heavy penalties should send a strong message to employers who exploited minimum-wage workers, particularly those from overseas.

“There are a minority of rogue employers that need to get the message that exploitation of these workers is unlawful and unacceptable conduct,” she said.

According to the Fair Work Ombudsman, $1.6 million has been recovered for visa-holders in the 2015 financial year, up from $1.1 million the previous year.

Extracted in full from The Age.