Nowra call centre fined for underpaying workers almost $200,000

18 February 2013

Note: The Federal Court has upheld parts of one appeal ground brought by Judith Potter against the Fair Work Ombudsman in this matter. The Federal Court has partly set aside the declarations and penalty orders against Judith Potter in relation to her involvement in the contraventions of Quincolli Pty Ltd during the period 1 January 2009 to 7 July 2009, and the Federal Circuit Court has reduced Judith Potter’s total penalty to $16,500. Please also note that the reference to prosecution in this media release is a general reference to the FWO commencing proceedings for the imposition of civil penalties and should not be taken to be a reference to criminal proceedings.

The operators of a Nowra call centre, on the New South Wales south coast, have been fined a total of $107,500 and ordered to back-pay almost $200,000 to staff.

Quincolli Pty Ltd, which formerly operated an inbound call centre for several NSW municipal councils and other organisations, has been fined $81,000 and ordered to pay a total of $193,419 in underpayments of wages to 33 call centre staff.

In addition, Quincolli Director, Judith Madge Potter, who managed the call centre at the time of the underpayments, has been fined $26,500.

The fines and back-payment order, imposed in the Federal Magistrates Court in Sydney, are the result of a prosecution by the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Federal Magistrate Rolf Driver found that Potter was involved in Quincolli underpaying 33 casual employees’ minimum hourly rates, overtime rates, annual leave loadings and shift, weekend and public holiday allowances in 2009.

The largest underpayment of an individual employee was $17,467.

Federal Magistrate Driver said the contraventions represented a failure to provide basic and important entitlements under workplace relations legislation and needed to be taken seriously.

“The purpose of that legislation is to provide a safety net which ensures adequate minimum entitlements to employees, particularly those who are vulnerable or are on low income rates,” Federal Magistrate Driver said in his judgment delivered today.

Fair Work Inspectors discovered the underpayments when they conducted an audit of the company.  Potter also breached workplace laws by failing to comply with a Fair Work inspector’s request to provide records and documents.

Fair Work Ombudsman, Nicholas Wilson, said the Court’s decision sends a message that underpaying low-paid employees’ minimum rates is a serious matter and will not be tolerated.

“We won’t hesitate to take action to ensure workplace laws relating to minimum pay rates are complied with,” Mr Wilson said.

“Successful prosecutions such as this also benefit employers who are complying with workplace laws because it helps them to compete on a level playing field.”

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

Media inquiries:

Ryan Pedler, Assistant Director, Media & Stakeholder Relations,
(03) 9954 2561, 0411 430 902
ryan.pedler@fwo.gov.au

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