30 July 2009
Security industry in spotlight as watchdog launches national campaign
Security companies throughout Australia will be randomly audited to ensure workers are being paid properly.
The Fair Work Ombudsman has revealed plans to run a national campaign.
Inspectors in all states and territories will check to ensure compliance with minimum rates of pay, penalty loadings, allowances and meal breaks.
Letters announcing the campaign have been sent to major stakeholders.
Follow-up with up to 5000 employers will begin soon, advising that those found to have breaches will initially be asked to rectify them voluntarily.
However, the Fair Work Ombudsman has flagged that employers who refuse, or who have serious and wilful contraventions, face potential legal action.
The maximum penalty for a breach of federal workplace law is $33,000.
The Fair Work Ombudsman’s Brisbane office is already investigating a number of Queensland-based security companies following concerns about possible sham contracting.
Sham contracting occurs when an employer attempts to disguise an employment relationship as an independent contracting arrangement, usually to avoid paying entitlements such as the minimum hourly rate, annual leave, sick pay and penalty rates.
Fair Work Ombudsman Executive Director Michael Campbell says the industry has been earmarked for Australia-wide scrutiny following the discovery of underpayments amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars for employees over the past 12 months.
- $212,000 in back-payments owed to 346 Queensland security staff working for companies in Brisbane, the Sunshine Coast and the Gold Coast,
- $165,000 in back-payments owed to 34 security workers at Kalgoorlie, in Western Australia’s Goldfields region,
- $11,800, $6500 and $4500 respectively for three security workers at Townsville in Queensland, and
- $2600 for a security worker at Albury in NSW.
In April, the former director of a Brisbane security firm, Adrian Luik, of The Gap, was fined $8000 in the Federal Magistrates Court for his involvement in his company underpaying a security patrol officer more than $3200 after a prosecution by the Fair Work Ombudsman.
And last year, Launceston-based Switched on Security Pty Ltd, trading as Platinum Security, was penalised $5500 – also in the Federal Magistrates Court – after the FWO prosecuted the company for failing to lodge workplace agreements for 11 of its staff.
Mr Campbell says a number of other security companies are currently before the Courts, with prosecutions recently launched against:
- The directors of a Mittagong, NSW, security company, Matthew McGrath and Gary Carpenter, over the alleged underpayment of $32,000 to three casual security officers employed by their company McCarvis Pty Ltd,
- Hobart-based Security Protection Services Pty Ltd, manager Neil Stewart Ruut and his wife Cindy, the sole director, over the alleged underpayment of $176,000 to 47 employees,
- Melbourne-based Specialist Security Management Pty Ltd and Specialist Australian Security Group Pty Ltd and the sole director and company secretary of both, Peter Kilfoyle, for allegedly underpaying a security guard almost $27,000, and
- Victorian Raymond Timothy Parmenter, whose former Ararat security business RHTC allegedly underpaid two employees almost $18,000.
The Fair Work Ombudsman’s last three national campaigns have identified hundreds of thousands of dollars for underpaid employees, including:
- $634,135 for 1707 young people aged between 15 and 24 from the National Young Workers’ Campaign, completed in January,
- $1.102 million for over 3863 hospitality staff from the National Hospitality Campaign completed in March, and
- $786,742 for 1075 workers from a National Food Services Campaign completed this month.
Mr Campbell says he hopes the security campaign will raise awareness of both employees and employers of their rights and responsibilities.
Workers and employers alike can contact the FWO Infoline on 13 13 94 or visit www.fwo.gov.au for assistance.
The Fair Work Ombudsman promotes harmonious, productive and co-operative workplaces. It also monitors compliance and investigates breaches of national workplace laws.
Craig Bildstien, Director Media & Stakeholder Relations,
0419 818 484
Ryan Pedler, Media & Stakeholder Relations Senior Adviser
(03) 9954 2561, 0434 365 924