Perth mat manufacturer penalised
19 February 2021
The Fair Work Ombudsman has secured $30,870 in penalties in court against the operators of a Perth manufacturer of custom-fit floor, boot and cargo mats for vehicles.
The Federal Circuit Court has imposed a $22,050 penalty against Matcraft Pty Ltd, which operates in the inner suburb of Carlisle, and a $4,410 penalty against each of the owner-operators of the company, husband-and-wife Paul and Leanne Ruthenberg.
The penalties were imposed in response to Matcraft and Mr and Mrs Ruthenberg breaching the Fair Work Act by failing to comply with a Compliance Notice requiring the company to calculate and back-pay amounts owing to an employee.
The employee, a Vietnamese migrant in his 60s who did not speak English, had worked as a sewing machinist for the company.
In addition to the penalties, the Court has ordered Matcraft to take the action required by the Compliance Notice, which includes calculating and rectifying identified underpayments in full for the employee, plus superannuation.
Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said business operators that fail to act on Compliance Notices face court-imposed penalties in addition to having to back-pay underpaid staff.
“We make every effort to secure voluntary compliance with Compliance Notices but where they are not followed, we are prepared to take legal action to ensure workers receive all their lawful entitlements,” Ms Parker said.
“We also treat matters involving the breach of migrant workers’ rights particularly seriously, as we know that they can be vulnerable. Any employees with concerns about their pay or entitlements should contact us for free advice and assistance.”
Fair Work Inspectors commenced an investigation into Matcraft after receiving a request for assistance from the affected employee.
The Compliance Notice was issued after a Fair Work Inspector formed a belief that the employee had not been paid any wages for work performed between July 2017 and June 2019, in breach of the Vehicle Manufacturing, Repair, Services and Retail Award 2010.
Judge Christopher Kendall found that after initially starting to rectify the underpayment according to a back-payment plan, Matcraft ceased back-payments to the employee and decided the money should be spent on products for the business.
Judge Kendall said there was evidence of “very poor conduct and a cavalier approach to what are important and much needed legal obligations”, and said the amount owing to the employee is estimated at $52,000.
“Had the respondents acted with any regard for basic workplace obligations, the need for the Compliance Notice would have been eradicated. Instead, they chose, in effect, to ‘see just how long they could continue’ not doing what they were legally required to do,” Judge Kendall said.
Judge Kendall found the employee was vulnerable and thus more easily exploited and that there had been no apology or expression of remorse from the respondents.
Judge Kendall said it was important to impose a penalty “to send a message that contraventions of the sort under consideration here are serious and not acceptable”.
Employers and employees seeking assistance can visit fairwork.gov.au or call the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94. An interpreter service is available on 13 14 50.
Know a workplace not doing the right thing but don’t want to get involved? Report it anonymously – in your language.
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Ryan Pedler, Assistant Director - Media
Mobile: 0411 430 902
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