P&O admits worker payments were unlawful

16 July 2010

The Fair Work Ombudsman has taken action against stevedoring company P&O for paying workers who took industrial action.

P&O paid six maritime workers for a full shift on November 5, 2008, despite them stopping work for one hour and 50 minutes.

The workers were due to unload 20,000 tonnes of mineral sands from a vessel docked at the port of Bunbury, in Western Australia.

The industrial action occurred during the course of bargaining for a replacement collective agreement to cover the workers. However, the industrial action was unprotected, as the action was not taken in accordance with a protected action ballot.

By paying the workers, P&O contravened workplace law.

Fair Work Ombudsman Executive Director Michael Campbell says workers need to be aware that if they take industrial action, including protected industrial action, they cannot be paid for any period where they refuse to work.

P&O has entered into an Enforceable Undertaking with the Fair Work Ombudsman as an alternative to the matter going to court.

Sydney-based P&O Automotive and General Stevedoring Pty Ltd has admitted its actions were unlawful and promised to make no payments of that kind again.

P&O has also undertaken to:

  • Immediately notify the Fair Work Ombudsman of any future unlawful industrial action by its employees over the next year,
  • Provide the Fair Work Ombudsman with written evidence of its compliance with the law within 21 days of any further industrial action,
  • Ensure that all its management and staff in Bunbury undergo no less than two hours’ formal training on workplace rights and obligations,
  • Write to all its employees in Bunbury and the Maritime Workers’ Union explaining that the payments were unlawful, that it is unlawful to demand payments of that kind and that the company will not make payments of that kind again.

Fair Work Ombudsman Executive Director Michael Campbell says Enforceable Undertakings are a mechanism by which the Agency can still achieve strong outcomes against wrong-doers without costly civil penalty proceedings.

The Fair Work Ombudsman has a number of tools and resources on its website, www.fwo.gov.au, to assist employers and employees alike to understand their respective rights and obligations, or people can call 13 13 94.

See Enforceable Undertaking: P&O Undertaking (PDF 441.1KB)

Media inquiries:

Craig Bildstien, Director, Media & Stakeholder Relations,
0419 818 484

Richard Honey, Adviser, Media & Stakeholder Relations,
(03) 9954 2716, 0457 924 146

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