737 Queensland club workers get $106,000 back-pay

7 October 2008

A total of 737 Queenslanders working in clubs are being reimbursed more than $106,000 after random audits found they were being underpaid.

Federal Workplace Ombudsman inspectors have been checking the books at 87 clubs in central and northern Queensland.

Bowls clubs, golf clubs, yacht clubs, RSL clubs and community clubs at Cairns, Townsville, Rockhampton, Bundaberg, Gladstone, Roma, Mitchell and Maranoa were earmarked for scrutiny following suspicions that some workers may not be getting their full entitlements.

Less than one third were found to be complying with workplace laws.

One club has had to back-pay staff $24,000.

Investigations at 11 clubs remain ongoing and Workplace Ombudsman Executive Director Michael Campbell says more money could still be recovered for some workers.

He has not ruled out potential legal action, depending on the findings.

Clubs were put on notice last December when the workplace watchdog sent information packs to 175 premises explaining their obligations to staff.

Mr Campbell said scrutiny of the industry by his office revealed that just 30 per cent of clubs were complying with workplace relations laws.

Workplace inspectors issued 46 Breach Notices relating to rates of pay, loadings and penalty rates.

Recoveries for workers include:

  • Cairns region – 18 clubs audited, nine breaches, $31,000 recouped for 185 workers.
  • Rockhampton region – 11 clubs audited, seven breaches, $34,300 returned to 274 employees.
  • Townsville region – 26 clubs audited, 13 breaches, $21,600 reimbursed to 122 staff.
  • Mackay region – 15 clubs audited, 15 breaches, $18,000 in back-pay for 153 workers.

Mr Campbell said all clubs found to be non-compliant had voluntarily rectified the problem immediately.

“The strong presence of the employer association, Clubs Qld, may have influenced their willingness to do so,” he said.

Last month, the Workplace Ombudsman announced the results of a similar campaign targeting restaurants, cafes and caterers in central and northern Queensland.

That campaign resulted in 270 workers getting back-pay of almost $97,000.

Clubs were audited to ensure they were issuing pay slips, maintaining time and wages records, paying correct rates of pay, loadings and penalty rates and meeting their obligations when negotiating workplace agreements.

Mr Campbell said it was important all businesses, no matter how large or small, understood and complied with their workplace responsibilities.

While the Workplace Ombudsman will not prosecute any clubs whose audits have already been finalised, Mr Campbell signalled that the agency reserved the right to take legal action depending on the outcome of remaining investigations.

“If serious breaches are identified, particularly if they occurred knowingly, then taking the matter to court is something we will consider,” he said.

Breaches of the Workplace Relations Act carry a maximum penalty of $33,000.

In the past two years, the Workplace Ombudsman has recovered more than $59 million in underpayments for 53,000 workers nationally.

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