Three legal actions against remorseless trolley collecting operator result in $130,000 in penalties

13 July 2018 

The Fair Work Ombudsman has secured more than $130,000 in penalties against a Victorian trolley collecting operator, who caused “financial and emotional hardship” to three workers by sacking them and refusing to pay unfair dismissal compensation.

Victorian man William Collen Hancock – who has provided trolley collecting services in the Latrobe Valley area, including at retail sites in Traralgon and Morwell – has been penalised $22,680 and his company WCH Services Pty Ltd has been penalised a further $113,400.

The penalties, imposed in the Federal Circuit Court in Melbourne, are the result of three separate legal actions by the Fair Work Ombudsman in response to Hancock and his company breaching the Fair Work Act by failing to comply with three unfair dismissal compensation orders from the Fair Work Commission.

Hancock and his company failed to pay compensation amounts of $17,392 and $4446 to two employees unfairly dismissed in 2015, and $962 to a worker unfairly dismissed in 2016.

The workers contacted the Fair Work Ombudsman after the compensation was not paid.

The Fair Work Ombudsman made several requests for Hancock and his company to comply with the compensation order, but they refused.

In relation to one of the workers, Hancock told the Fair Work Ombudsman he “would rather go to Gaol than give (the worker) one more cent”.

The compensation amounts remain unpaid – and in addition to the penalties, Judge Norah Hartnett ordered Hancock and his company to pay the compensation amounts in full.

Judge Hartnett also ordered Hancock and his company to pay $12,491 in Fair Work Ombudsman legal costs.

Judge Hartnett found that Hancock and his company had caused the three workers “actual financial and emotional hardship”.

One worker gave evidence that it took him seven months to find alternative employment after he was dismissed, while another gave evidence that he has remained unemployed since he was dismissed in 2016.

The other worker gave evidence that he had to undertake further education to improve his employment prospects and had relocated to Queensland due to financial pressures.

Judge Hartnett found that the contraventions were deliberate and that Hancock and his company had not demonstrated any contrition or corrective action.

“The Respondents have demonstrated no contrition or corrective action, in particular any action taken by the corporation to correct its illegal approach and change its behaviour,” Judge Hartnett said.

Judge Hartnett noted that WCH Services Pty Ltd continues to operate a business, with Hancock as a director, and said there was a need to impose a penalty that deterred them from further breaches.

“Any penalty imposed by the Court is required to resonate with the Respondents’ such that they do not engage in any future non-compliance of workplace laws,” Judge Hartnett said.

Judge Hartnett also found that the penalties should deter others from failing to comply Fair Work Commission orders.

The penalties should also deter employers of vulnerable workers in regional areas and employers in the trolley collection industry in general from breaching workplace laws, Judge Hartnett found.

It is only the second time the Fair Work Ombudsman, or its predecessor Agencies, have taken three legal actions against a business operator. The other operator to face three actions was also a trolley collecting operator – see: Court imposes $190,000 penalties over exploitation of overseas trolley collectors.

Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James says the penalties imposed send a message that serious consequences apply for failing to comply with Fair Work Commission orders.

“Refusing to comply with a Fair Work Commission order to pay unfair dismissal compensation is completely unacceptable,” Ms James said.

“Compliance with Fair Work Commission orders is fundamental for the integrity of the workplace relations system, and employers should be aware that the Fair Work Ombudsman will take action where appropriate.

“The Fair Work Ombudsman’s debt recovery team will do everything within its power to ensure that Hancock and his company comply with the penalty, compensation and costs orders of the Court.”

The Fair Work Ombudsman has commenced legal action against several employers over the past six years for failing to pay unfair dismissal compensation ordered by the Fair Work Commission.

Employers and employees can seek assistance at www.fairwork.gov.au or contact the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94. A free interpreter service is available on 13 14 50.

Information on the website includes the Fair Work Ombudsman’s compliance and enforcement policy.

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.

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

Media inquiries:

Ryan Pedler, Director - Media
Mobile: 0411 430 902
ryan.pedler@fwo.gov.au

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