Wettenhalls ordered to increase pay rates for drivers

Fair Work Australia rules against Wettenhalls in pay dispute, ordering the operator to increase rates for truck drivers working weekends

Wettenhalls ordered to increase pay rates for drivers
Wettenhalls ordered to increase pay rates for drivers
By Brad Gardner | August 7, 2012

Some of Wettenhalls Group’s truck drivers are in line for a pay bonanza after the industrial umpire ordered the company to increase rates for employees working on the weekend.

Fair Work Australia Commissioner Ian Cambridge upheld an application from the Transport Workers Union (TWU) for casual truck drivers to receive a 25 percent loading on top of the weekend rate of $36 per hour and to be paid penalty rates for shift work.

The ruling applies to drivers employed under the Wettenhalls Group Goodman Fielder (NSW) Enterprise Agreement, which was struck in November last year. Wettenhalls provides line-haul services for the food company.

Casuals working weekends have not received the 25 percent loading since the agreement began, while the company has also denied shift penalties to casuals and permanents working weekends.

Wettenhalls told FWA the $36 hourly rate incorporated casual loading and shift penalties, but Cambridge ruled the weekend rate did not take into account both payments. It means casual drivers toiling away on Saturdays and Sundays should have received at least $45 per hour.

"Accordingly I find that casual employees covered by the Agreement are entitled to be paid the 25% loading on both Monday to Friday and weekend rates," Cambridge says in his written judgment.

"Accordingly I find that employees covered by the Agreement are entitled to be paid shift penalties if they are being paid either Monday to Friday rates…or the weekend rates…provided that the shift satisfies the shift definition set out in…the Agreement."

During proceedings, the TWU gave evidence Wettenhalls Human Resources Manager Kris Waite told union representatives the 25 percent loading would be on the $36 per hour weekend rate. The company denied this, but Waite did not appear before FWA to put her version of events.

"On this point, the evidence provided by the all witnesses for the TWU was consistent, plausible and believable," Cambridge says.

"There was no explanation for the absence of any evidence from Ms Waite and there was no suggestion that there was any particular impediment to such evidence being provided. After careful consideration…I am disposed to draw an adverse inference from the absence of evidence from Ms Waite."

Cambridge says a literal interpretation of the agreement states casuals only receive 25 percent loading if working Monday to Friday. However, an earlier draft of the agreement applied the loading to weekday and weekend rates.

Wettenhalls argued the $36 hourly rate should remain in place because it was a substantial increase on the previous weekend rate and that casuals had traditionally been paid the same for weekend work as permanent employees.

But Cambridge noted the absence of casual loading and shift penalties meant those working weekends were being paid less than drivers rostered to work Monday to Friday. Furthermore, he says the pay was also less than Award-employees received.

Wettenhalls signed an agreement with Goodman Fielder in late 2008 to transport the company’s products, prompting the transport operator to increase its fleet size and headcount.

Goodman Fielder manufacturers well-known consumer brands such as Meadow Lea, White Wings, Helga’s and Pampas.

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