The former owner-operator of a transport company is facing Court for allegedly short-changing 12 truck drivers on the NSWNorth Coast more than $143,000 and using false records to try to disguise the underpayments.
The Fair Work Ombudsman has commenced legal proceedings against Woolgoolga man Sumerdeep Singh in the Federal Circuit Court.
Mr Singh’s now defunct company, Sumer Bagri Pty Ltd, allegedly underpaid the drivers more than $143,000 between 2011 and 2014.
The drivers, who delivered groceries in and around Coffs Harbour, were allegedly told they would be paid flat hourly rates of between $17 and $23 Monday to Sunday.
The drivers were allegedly underpaid their minimum hourly rates, casual loadings, and penalty rates for weekend, overtime and public holiday work.
At the time, Mr Singh’s company transported groceries ordered online under a contract it had with Linfox Australia Pty Ltd, which had been contracted by Woolworths Ltd.
The Fair Work Ombudsman says the contract price paid by Woolworths to Linfox and the sub-contract price paid by Linfox to Sumer Bagri were sufficient for Mr Singh’s company to pay minimum lawful entitlements.
The matter came to the attention of the Fair Work Ombudsman after a former driver contacted the Agency seeking assistance.
In response to a Notice to Produce records, Mr Singh allegedly provided Fair Work inspectors with falsified time records that made it appear employees had received higher pay rates than was actually the case.
The false records allegedly misstated the number of hours worked by employees and showed Mr Singh had himself performed driving duties during a period when he was actually in India.
Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James says a decision was made to commence litigation because of the seriousness of the alleged contraventions.
Mr Singh faces maximum penalties of between $3400 and $10,200 per contravention. The Fair Work Ombudsman will seek a Court Order for any penalties imposed to be paid to the allegedly underpaid workers.
The Fair Work Ombudsman is also seeking a Court Order requiring Mr Singh to complete the ‘Hiring employees’ training course on the Fair Work Ombudsman’s website.
A penalty hearing is listed for April 12 in the Federal Circuit Court in Sydney.
Employers and employees seeking assistance can visit www.fairwork.gov.au or contact the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94. A free interpreter service is available by calling 13 14 50.