Car wash outlets targeted for audit over concerns that young crews are underpaid

17 May 2010

The Fair Work Ombudsman is concerned that vulnerable workers at manual car wash outlets around Australia are being short-changed.

The Agency is considering mounting a national campaign to ensure the mainly young car wash crews are being properly paid.

The results of random audits to be conducted in Adelaide over the next six weeks will determine whether or not the national crackdown goes ahead.

"If our initial investigations in South Australia uncover serious issues of non-compliance with workplace laws, then we may well launch a full national investigation," Fair Work Ombudsman Executive Director Michael Campbell said today.

"We have received a number of complaints that people employed to manually wash cars are being underpaid.

"We are also concerned about sham contracting in this area – that is, that employees have incorrectly been classified as sub-contractors in an attempt by employers to avoid some of their obligations."

The Fair Work Ombudsman is currently considering legal action against two car wash operators in Sydney and one in Melbourne which have been the subject of recent investigations.

Mr Campbell says the car wash industry employs large numbers of young workers and people from non-English speaking backgrounds who may not be fully aware of their workplace rights.

"It is important that we ensure these workers are receiving their full entitlements," he said.

Adelaide has been chosen for the initial check on employers because of intelligence being received about carwash operators in SA.

Fair Work inspectors will ask employers to provide time-and-wages records and other employment documents for March and April.

"Inspectors will scrutinise records to ensure workers have been paid the correct minimum rates of pay, penalty rates, loadings and allowances," Mr Campbell said.

"Where records indicate a business has engaged a worker as a sub-contractor, further investigations will be conducted to ensure the classification is correct.

"It is vital that workers are classified correctly because if they are incorrectly classified as sub-contractors, they can miss out on important entitlements such as superannuation, sick leave, annual leave and penalty rates."

Mr Campbell says if inspectors find minor or inadvertent contraventions, the preference will be to educate the employer and assist them to rectify the issue.

"In those cases where the contravention is blatant or employers are not willing to resolve the issue voluntarily, we will escalate the matter," he said.

In Victoria last year, Reiquin Pty Ltd and its director Richard Timothy Reid were fined a Victorian record $207,900 for underpaying five casual car washing staff at the Royal Melbourne Car Wash in Camberwell.

Employers and workers in the car wash industry seeking advice or assistance can visit or call the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94. For translations call 13 14 50.

The Fair Work Ombudsman promotes harmonious, productive and co-operative workplaces. It also monitors compliance and investigates breaches of national workplace laws.

Media inquiries:

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

Ryan Pedler, Media & Stakeholder Relations Senior Adviser
(03) 9954 2561, 0434 365 924

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