The highly publicised case of non-compliant wage payments of workers in the petrol convenience industry last year appears to have sparked an understandable response from the Federal Government in recent times – and the petrol convenience industry is likely to be a target of increased oversight in the near future.

This week, Wednesday 5 October 2016, the Federal Government announced that it would soon introduce new laws to give the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) new powers to investigate potential breaches of employment law coupled with laws that will expressly prohibit employers from providing false and misleading information.

The day before this announcement, the Turnbull Government announced the establishment of a Migrant Worker Taskforce. This Taskforce, to be chaired by former ACCC Chairman Alan Fels, will monitor 7 Eleven’s progress in wage repayments and advise the Government on policies relating to the employment of overseas workers in Australia.

The Taskforce will include representatives from relevant Commonwealth Government Departments (i.e. Employment, Immigration & Border Protection, Attorney-General, Education & Training and Treasury) plus the Fair Work Ombudsman, Australian Taxation Office, Australian Border Force, ACCC, and the Australian Security and Investments Commission.

“If anyone doubted the resolve of the Federal Government to ensure that the wages of vulnerable migrant workers are protected then they need to think again”, said ACAPMA CEO Mark McKenzie.

The Federal Government’s commitment to this issue is further reinforced by the fact that the Australian Government recently established Taskforce Cadena. Led by the Fair Work Ombudsman and the Australian Border Force, this Taskforce will be supported by the Australian Federal Police and other agencies to investigate potential breaches of employment law relating to the employment of migrant workers.

In a recent speech welcoming the above developments in employment law enforcement, Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James suggested that the changes demonstrated the Australian Government’s “…commitment to new laws that capture franchisors and parent companies that fail to deal with (migrant worker) exploitation in their networks”

ACAPMA also welcomed the development under the umbrella of an unequivocal commitment to absolute compliance with Australian employment law, noting that there is no place for businesses in the fuels industry that flout employment laws.

“Not only is it unjust to the workers, but it provides these businesses with an unfair competitive advantage when compared with fuel retail businesses that are operating in full compliance with Australian employment law”, said Mark.

“While the petrol/convenience industry is not the sole focus of these actions – in fact far from it – we were the catalyst and will justifiably face increased scrutiny in the years ahead”, said Mark.

The changes announced this week mean that businesses that continue to deliberately flout wage and employment laws are more likely to be caught in the future.

“We encourage all petrol/convenience businesses to take heed of these developments and ensure that they are operating in full accordance with the relevant employment laws”, said Mark.

Specifically, businesses operating in the petrol convenience industry must ensure that all employees are paid in strict accordance with the “Vehicle Manufacturing, Repair and Retail Services Award (2010)”. Details of this award can be found at https://www.fwc.gov.au/documents/documents/modern_awards/award/ma000089/default.htm

Alternatively, member businesses can contact ACAPMA’s Industrial Relations team by calling 1300 160 270 (or emailing assist@acapma.com.au) to discuss any areas of uncertainty of compliance.

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