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Fighting For Australian Workers Who Have Had Their Wages Stolen By Their Boss
“Obnoxious” Sydney Company Hit With Huge $558,000 Wage Theft Penalty

“Obnoxious” Sydney company hit with huge $558,000 wage theft penalty

An “obnoxious” Sydney company has been hit with a huge $558,190 penalty for deliberately and systematically ripping off workers.

Justice John Snaden described the $3.6 million wage theft involving 400 workers as “troubling”.

“Obnoxious” Sydney company hit with huge penalty

The Federal Court imposed a $500,000 penalty against Winit (AU) Trade Pty Ltd.

The Hong Kong-owned company provides warehousing and distribution services in Sydney for products sold on online platforms, including eBay.

In addition, the Court also imposed a $8,190 penalty against the company’s sole director and general manager, Song Cheng.

Working-holiday-visa holders

The Fair Work Ombudsman commenced a wage theft investigation following complaints from some of the workers.

The regulator’s litigation against Winit focused on a sample of 30 employees.

The company underpaid that group a total of $368,684 between July 2017 and June 2018.

Those workers, all working-holiday-visa holders, performed various roles including sorting, loading and packing goods at Winit’s warehouse at Regents Park in Sydney.

They worked up to 70 hours per week over six or seven days with most paid a flat hourly rate of $24.41.

Winit also failed to comply with laws relating to pay slips, in addition to contraventions including shift and meal allowances.

Adverse action

The company also contravened adverse actions laws by reducing two employees’ shifts after they refused Winit’s settlement offer.

Winit offered to pay those workers only 25 percent of their outstanding entitlements after Fair Work commenced its investigation.

Individual underpayments between July 2017 and June 2018 for the 30 employees ranged from $446 to $28,202.

Meanwhile, the company underpaid 19 of the employees more than $10,000.

All 30 employees have subsequently been back-paid in full.

Winit also back-paid the large majority of other employees underpaid between 2014 and 2019 after engaging an external auditor.

‘Deliberate and systematic’

Justice John Snaden described Winit’s underpayment contraventions as “troubling”.

He particularly noted the serious contraventions, which he described as “deliberate and systematic”.

“The court must exact a heavy toll: not merely to ensure that Winit is brought to account for its obnoxious conduct; but also to serve as a warning to other employers who might be minded to ignore their own important Award and statutory obligations in the way that Winit did.”

Meanwhile, Justice Snaden described the adverse action contraventions as “concerning”.

He said when alerted to its wrongdoing, the company negotiated a monetary compromise instead of taking steps to correct the wage theft.

“Worse, when two of its employees pushed back on that course, it took reprisal action against them in the form of reduced working hours,” Justice Snaden said.

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