Downes Rice Hulls to back-pay $94,000 to underpaid truckies


Farming waste company promises to overhaul workplace and compliance procedures following FWO audit

Downes Rice Hulls to back-pay $94,000 to underpaid truckies
FWO says the case highlights the importance of employers knowing their minimum entitlements to the employees.

 

A Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) intervention has resulted in farming waste company Downes Rice Hulls to agree to pay underpaid truck drivers nearly $94,000 within 12 months.

An FWO audit found that the Deniliquin-based company had underpaid 16 truckies their overtime and weekend penalty rate dues.

The case was brought to the Ombudsman by a former driver contracted by the company at its Leeton depot.

The FWO investigation concluded that the driver was underpaid $50,856 between 2011 and 2014, with a wider audit proving that the company had underpaid further 15 full-time or casual workers a total of $43,138 between a three-month period from January to March 2016.

The company also failed to pay annual leave loading and contravened record-keeping laws during that period.

 "The Fair Work Ombudsman found that the worker, aged in his 50s, was paid a $24 hourly base rate, $25 for night-shift work and $27 for overtime work," an FWO statement notes.

"However, under the Waste Management Award 2010 at the time, he was entitled to overtime rates of between $31.91 and $42.54, up to $42.54 on Sundays and up to $63.81 on Christmas Day and Good Friday.

"His afternoon and night-shift loadings were also underpaid."


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Since the audit, the company has entered into an Enforceable Undertaking (EU) with the FWO and agreed to make all the back-payments within 12 months, overhaul its workplace practices and ensure future compliance.

As part of the EU, Downes Rice Hulls will also take the following steps: 

  • commission external audits of its compliance
  • rectify any contraventions found
  • ensure all managerial staff complete training on their workplace obligations
  • display public notices in its workplaces detailing the contraventions
  • provide written apologies to the workers
  • sign up to the Fair Work Ombudsman’s My Account online portal.

It has also agreed to donate $5000 to the GetSet youth employment readiness program in Leeton.

FWO Natalie James says the case highlights the importance of employers ensuring they are aware of the minimum entitlements that apply to their employees.

"We are committed to helping employers rectify their non-compliance issues, but business operators need to make an effort to get the basics right in the first place," James says.

Downes Rice Hulls collects and transports rice hulls in the NSW Riverina region and has major depots in Leeton and Deniliquin. It formerly also had a depot at Coleambally.

The Transport Workers Union had recently raised the subject of wage theft, urging governments to hold employers to account if found guilty of wage or superannuation theft.

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