Fair Work rules in Linfox's favour over payroll dispute

Linfox employees lose generous payments for overtime work after industrial umpire rules in the company’s favour over a payroll dispute

Fair Work rules in Linfox's favour over payroll dispute
Fair Work rules in Linfox’s favour over payroll dispute
By Brad Gardner | May 14, 2012

Linfox truck drivers have been stripped of generous penalty payments after the industrial umpire ruled in favour of the company in its payroll dispute with the Transport Workers Union.

Fair Work Australia upheld Linfox’s argument that its employees should not be paid at double time for breaks taken during overtime work.

Some of the company’s workforce had been receiving the payments, and the practice was discovered when Linfox introduced a national payroll system last year to replace the multiple payment arrangements at 100 sites.

It changed payments so that each worker under the Linfox Road Transport and Distribution Centres National Enterprise Agreement was paid at the ordinary rate, sparking a backlash from the TWU whose members complained of being shortchanged.

"I so determine that the rate to apply to a crib break before commencing overtime and thereafter upon completing each four hour period shall be at the ordinary rate," Commissioner Greg Harrison says.

The union wanted Linfox to reverse its decision, but it refused on the basis the double-time payments were "erroneous".

The enterprise agreement, struck last year, made no mention about the rate of pay for workers taking breaks during overtime.

Likewise, Harrison says relevant clauses in the Road Transport and Distribution Award and the Transport Industry (State) Award also fail to mention anything about rates of pay.

"In this matter none of the relevant industrial instruments provide any reference to the rate to apply to crib breaks," Harrison says.

"Historically, at least since 1983, the transport workers federal awards provided for a crib break of 20 minute before commencing overtime and thereafter upon completing each four hour period to be paid at ordinary rates.

"In my view, given the absence of any reference in the relevant instruments to pay crib time at the time or on the particular day it is taken, it would be an error to ignore the history of the Award."

Two union delegates and long-time Linfox employees told Fair Work Australia it was customary practice to be paid at the rate applicable at the time a break was taken.

However, Harrison ruled that payments over an unspecified period were not sufficient for him to conclude they were part of the agreement or a condition of employment or entitlement.

During the initial proceeding before Fair Work Australia in March, Linfox said it was unaware of the double-time payments until the TWU raised the matter. Both parties agreed Linfox's actions caused some employees to be paid less.

The switch to a national payroll system did not affect all workers because some were already being paid the ordinary rate for breaks taken during overtime.

Linfox Human Resources President Laurie D’Apice told Fair Work in March he was "shocked" upon learning the level of payments that had been made to employees.

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