15 September 2010
Stanthorpe farm connections face court
Note: Reference to prosecution in this media release is a general reference to the FWO commencing proceedings for the imposition of civil penalties and should not be taken to be a reference to criminal proceedings.
The Fair Work Ombudsman is taking legal action against the connections of a farm near Stanthorpe, Queensland, for allegedly creating an illegal employment structure to deprive four casual staff of overtime payments.
Facing court is Louisa Baronio, principal manager of a fruit and vegetable farm on Aerodrome Road, Applethorpe. She and her husband own and operate the farm through their company Eastern Colour Pty Ltd.
Also facing court is Eastern Colour adviser Vincenzo Catanzaro.
Mr Catanzaro is involved in the management of two companies owned by members of Mrs Baronio’s family - S.B. Employments Pty Ltd and N.B. Employments Pty Ltd - which allegedly supplied labour exclusively to the Applethorpe farm.
Eastern Colour, S.B. Employments and N.B. Employments are also respondents to the Fair Work Ombudsman’s prosecution.
The Fair Work Ombudsman is alleging that Mrs Baronio and Mr Catenzaro conspired to implement an arrangement whereby the employment of four farm workers was transferred from one company to another after they had each worked 40 hours in a week.
The purpose of the arrangement was allegedly to deprive the workers of overtime rates when they worked more than 40 hours a week.
Documents lodged in the Federal Court in Brisbane allege Mrs Baronio and Mr Catanzaro were involved in denying the four workers a total of $13,719 in overtime payments between 2005 and 2007.
It is further alleged the pair were involved in the underpayment of the employees’ minimum hourly rates and public holiday rates, bringing the total underpayment to $19,034.
The Fair Work Ombudsman first became aware of the alleged underpayments after receiving complaints from workers in 2008.
Three of the allegedly underpaid employees were fruit and vegetable packers and one was a fork-lift driver. They were only back-paid their entitlements last month.
Fair Work Ombudsman Executive Director Michael Campbell says the Agency has proceeded to litigation because of the seriousness of the allegations against the respondents.
Mrs Baronio, Mr Catanzaro, Eastern Colour, S.B. Employments and N.B. Employments were allegedly involved in multiple contraventions of workplace laws.
The maximum potential penalty per breach is $6600 for Mrs Baronio and Mr Catanzaro and $33,000 for the companies. The case is listed for directions on September 29.
Employers or employees seeking assistance should contact the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94 or visit www.fairwork.gov.au. For translations call 13 14 50.
Ryan Pedler, Senior Adviser, Media & Stakeholder Relations
(03) 9954 2561, 0434 365 924