The Fair Work Ombudsman has secured $23,750 in penalties in court against the former operator of a copper mine in far north Queensland.
The Federal Circuit Court has imposed a $20,000 penalty against Baal Gammon Copper Pty Ltd, which formerly operated a copper mine at Watsonville near Cairns, and an additional $3,750 penalty against company director Denis Walter Reinhardt.
The penalties were imposed in response to Baal Gammon Copper and Mr Reinhardt breaching the Fair Work Act by failing to comply with a Compliance Notice requiring the company to calculate and back-pay annual leave entitlements owing to two employees.
In addition to the penalties, the Court has ordered Baal Gammon Copper to take the action required by the Compliance Notice, which includes back-paying the employees in full, including superannuation. The Court also ordered that Baal Gammon Copper pay interest on the back-payments.
Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said business operators that fail to act on Compliance Notices face court-imposed penalties in addition to having to back-pay underpaid staff.
“We make every effort to secure voluntary compliance with Compliance Notices but where they are not followed, we are prepared to take legal action to ensure workers receive all their lawful entitlements,” Ms Parker said.
“Any employees with concerns about their pay or entitlements should contact us for free advice and assistance.”
Fair Work Inspectors commenced an investigation into Baal Gammon Copper in 2019 after receiving a request for assistance from one of the affected employees.
The Compliance Notice was issued after a Fair Work Inspector formed a belief that the two employees had been underpaid annual leave entitlements.
Judge Michael Jarrett found that Baal Gammon Copper’s and Mr Reinhardt’s failure to comply with the Compliance Notice was deliberate, they had displayed no contrition and had failed to acknowledge the loss suffered by the employees.
Judge Jarrett said the employees were owed $42,163.09 and $39,087.96, respectively, in annual leave entitlements accrued over 12 years of employment and the failure to pay the entitlements has “had significant financial impact on both employees”.
Judge Jarrett said the penalties should demonstrate that there are serious consequences for failing to comply with a compliance notice. “Employers and others who receive such notices should be under no misapprehension about what is required of them,” Judge Jarrett said.
Employers and employees seeking assistance can visit fairwork.gov.au or call the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94. An interpreter service is available on 13 14 50.