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Arkwood case prompts TWU warning on underpayments

Union warns of potentially hefty wage claim against waste transporter after it paid its trucks drivers under wrong employment Award

By Brad Gardner | June 18, 2012

The Transport Workers Union is eyeing off a significant wage claim against a waste transporter after it was revealed the company paid its truck drivers under the wrong employment Award.

Fair Work Australia Commissioner Ingrid Asbury has ruled Arkwood Organic Recycling should have paid its Queensland drivers according to rates outlined in the Waste Management Award instead of the Road Transport and Distribution Award, which the company was using.

The Waste Management Award entitles drivers to an industry allowance of 11 percent of their standard rate to account for the “unusually offensive and obnoxious” material they must deal with.

The TWU is now investigating whether underpayments occurred, but in a statement released today the union is already claiming Arkwood has exposed itself “to a wage claim that could hit hundreds of thousands of dollars”.

“The message to workers is clear: check your pay today. It is vital that every Australian worker does an annual check of their pay, entitlements and conditions,” TWU Queensland Assistant Secretary Scott Connolly says.

“Employers must also act…It’s in everyone’s interest to make sure inadvertent breaches are minimised. And to those employers who engage in malfeasance, we say you will be discovered and your crimes will be remedied.”

Arkwood, which also operates in NSW, employs 36 drivers in Queensland and transports biosolids. It told Fair Work Australia it did not believe the state’s Environmental Protection Act classified biosolids as a waste. Asbury rejected the claim.

“That submission is at odds with the legislative and regulatory framework,” she says.

“Biosolids are clearly ‘waste’ as defined in the Environmental Protection Act 1994. If this was not the case, the entire legislative regime with which Arkwood is apparently complying would have no application.”

Asbury says biosolids “have an unpleasant odour and it could be said to be offensive and obnoxious”.

The commissioner inspected Arkwood’s operations during proceedings and observed biosolids being unloaded from trucks and spread onto land.

Arkwood also transports heavy machinery and materials such as gravel, woodchip, bark and grain.

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