Court action over alleged exploitation of migrant trolley collectors in Bendigo

3 March 2017 

A trolley collection subcontractor is facing Court forallegedly exploiting two migrant workers at Bendigo, in regional Victoria, and using false records to try tocover it up.

TheFair Work Ombudsman has commenced legal action in the Federal Circuit Court againstJobanjeet Singh and his company Joban’s Trolley Collection Pty Ltd.

TheFair Work Ombudsman alleges Mr Singh and his company underpaid two trolleycollection workers a total of $29,031 between January and June, 2015.

Theworkers were recent migrants from Afghanistan and Pakistan aged 32 and 29. Theyhad recently arrived as refugees and been granted permanent residency. Oneworker spoke limited English.

Joban’sTrolley Collection employed them to work at the Woolworths Bendigo Market Placeshopping centre as part of a subcontract it had at the time with United TrolleyCollections Pty Ltd. United Trolley Collection no longer holds any contractswith Joban’s Trolley Collection and Joban’s no longer operates at anyWoolworths sites.  

TheFair Work Ombudsman’s investigation revealed that the two workers had allegedlybeen paid rates ranging from $9.73 to $19.20 an hour.

Thisallegedly resulted in underpayment of their minimum hourly rates, shift-workloadings, overtime rates and penalty rates for weekend and public holiday work.

Theywere allegedly also underpaid superannuation and annual leave entitlements.

Itis also alleged that during the investigation, Mr Singh and his companyknowingly provided Fair Work inspectors with false time-and-wages records thatoverstated the rates the two workers were paid.

FairWork Ombudsman Natalie James says legal action has been commenced because ofthe involvement of vulnerable workers and the seriousness of the alleged conduct.

“Employersshould be aware that we treat exploitation of migrant workers particularlyseriously,” Ms James said.

MrSingh faces maximum penalties of up to $10,800 per contravention and Joban’sTrolley Collection Pty Ltd faces penalties of up to $54,000 per contraventionfor a number of alleged contraventions of the Fair Work Act.

Thetwo workers came forward and lodged requests for assistance during the FairWork Ombudsman’s Inquiry into the procurement of trolley collectionservices by Woolworths, which involved Fair Work inspectors visiting 130Woolworths' sites across Australia.

The Fair Work Ombudsman last year released thefindings of an Inquiry into the procurement of trolley collection services byWoolworths Ltd.

Since the publication of the Inquiryfindings, the Fair Work Ombudsman has had constructive discussions withWoolworths aimed at supporting the supermarket giant to establish robust,transparent and accountable management of its trolley collection services andbuilding a culture of compliance in its business.

Coles became the first major supermarket chain to publicly declare it has an “ethicaland moral responsibility” to stamp out exploitation of vulnerable trolleycollectors when it signed an EnforceableUndertaking with the Fair Work Ombudsman in October, 2014.

Last year, Coles provided a first-year report to the Fair Work Ombudsman on steps it hasbeen taking to stamp out exploitation of trolley collectors across hundreds ofits sites, including bringing trolley collection services progressivelyin-house.

MsJames says she is increasingly concerned about thenumber of employers from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds whoare exploiting workers from within their own ethnic communities.

“I want to make it clear to that the lawful obligationsto pay minimum wage rates, keep appropriate employment records and issue payslips apply to all employers in Australia and they are not negotiable.

“Wewelcome the Government’s commitments to enhance workplacelaws to better protect vulnerable workers, including increasing applicablepenalties for serious record-keeping contraventions.”

Employersand employees seeking assistance can visit www.fairwork.gov.au or contact the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94.

Aninterpreter service is available by calling 13 14 50 and information and helpful materials on thewebsite is translated into 27 different languages.

Sign up to receive the Fair Work Ombudsman’s media releases direct to your email inbox at www.fairwork.gov.au/mediareleases.

Follow Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James on Twitter @NatJamesFWO external-icon.png, the Fair Work Ombudsman @fairwork_gov_au External link icon or find us on Facebook www.facebook.com/fairwork.gov.au External link icon.

Media inquiries:

Mark Lee, Director of Media,
Mobile: 0408 547 381
mark.lee@fwo.gov.au

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