The Fair Work Ombudsman has secured a total of $90,000 in court penalties against four companies that operate commercial laundry businesses trading as ‘South Pacific Laundry’ that underpaid 22 workers.
The Federal Circuit and Family Court has imposed a:
- $54,000 penalty against Specialised Linen Services (Sydney) Pty Ltd of Bankstown, NSW;
- $10,000 penalty against Specialised Linen Services (Adelaide) Pty Ltd of Torrensville, South Australia;
- $14,000 penalty against Specialised Linen Services (Cairns) Pty Ltd of Portsmith and Paget, Queensland; and
- $12,000 penalty against Specialised Linen Services (Melbourne) Pty Ltd of Broadmeadows, Victoria.
The penalties were imposed in response to the four companies underpaying the workers a total of $24,134 during periods in January 2018 and between July and October 2018. At the time of the breaches, one worker was 17 years old and four other workers were visa holders.
Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said employers that underpaid vulnerable workers, including young workers and visa holders, would continue to risk facing court action.
“We continue to prioritise the protection of vulnerable workers, who we know can be at particular risk of exploitation, and that includes pursuing penalties in court against employers who fail to meet their workers’ rights,” Ms Parker said.
“All workers have the same basic rights in Australia, regardless of age or visa status, and anyone with concerns about their pay or entitlements should contact the FWO for free assistance.”
The four companies back-paid the workers only after the Fair Work Ombudsman investigated.
In imposing the penalties, Deputy Chief Judge Patrizia Mercuri noted that “employers have a particular responsibility in relation to vulnerable employees to ensure that their rights are respected.”
Her Honour found that the ultimate rectification of the underpayments “does not displace the loss suffered by the employees who did not have access to their wages and other employment entitlements in a timely manner.”
Deputy Chief Judge Mercuri found that there was a need to impose penalties to deter other employers in the laundry industry from similar conduct.
The regulator investigated the Cairns-based company as part of its Workplace Basics Campaign in 2018 and expanded its investigation to cover multiple companies after receiving anonymous reports.
The affected workers all performed laundry work and were employed in full-time, part-time and casual positions.
The underpayments relate to the failure of the companies based in Sydney and Melbourne to pay overtime penalties to shiftworkers and who either did not pay or underpaid shiftwork and weekend penalties.
The companies based in Sydney, Adelaide and Cairns failed to pay overtime penalties to non-shiftworkers. In addition, the companies based in Sydney, Adelaide and Cairns underpaid or did not pay public holiday-related penalties; the Sydney company underpaid annual leave entitlements and loading; and the Cairns company did not pay penalties to an employee who took insufficient breaks.
The breaches were of the Dry Cleaning and Laundry Industry Award 2010 and the Fair Work Act’s National Employment Standards.
Underpayments of individual employees ranged from small amounts to $12,090 during the timeframe.
In 2021-22, 26 per cent of the Fair Work Ombudsman’s new litigations included a migrant worker. About $1.8 million in court-ordered penalties were secured in matters that included migrant workers.