Fair Work Ombudsman

The owner of a Queensland tour company that underpaid its workers has been jailed by the Federal Court in a contempt of court case brought by the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO). It was the first time a boss had been jailed as a result of action by the FWO.

The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) is prosecuting a case under the Horticultural Award, which could have wide implications for piece rates — where a worker is paid for the units produced or actions performed rather than an hourly rate.

The case centres on the alleged underpayment of more than 400 mushroom pickers at a farm south of Brisbane in 2014.

FWO said under the Horticulture Award 2010 a piece rate should allow a worker to earn at least the minimum hourly rate plus 15%.

The federal government’s vulnerable workers legislation, which it says is to crack down on franchisee underpayments, would give the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) coercive powers to investigate unions and compulsorily obtain information from workers over suspected unlawful industrial action.

Employment Minister Senator Michaelia Cash said on August 16 the new law would mean the FWO could obtain evidence of "discrimination, coercion, conduct relating to false records, unprotected industrial action, accessorial liability, unfair dismissal [and] bullying claims".

The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) dropped its landmark case against the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) and seven crew members of the Tandara Spirit on May 15.

The case related to alleged breaches of the Fair Work Act when the MUA and the seafarers failed to comply with orders from the Fair Work Commission in late 2014.

MUA national secretary Paddy Crumlin said the FWO pulled its investigation after wasting the time and resources of the union and putting the workers through unacceptable stress and anxiety.

Unite, a group that seeks to organise casual workers in Victoria, has called on the federal government to give an amnesty to any past or present 7-Eleven workers who may have breached their international student visa conditions.

After ABC’s 4 Corners revealed the 7-Eleven half-pay scam the company was forced to launch its own independent investigation of the claims of underpayment. The Fair Work Ombudsman is also investigating the widespread underpayment of wages at 7-Eleven stores.

Subscribe to Fair Work Ombudsman