Court Fines Newcastle Company Over 'arrogant Disregard For Welfare' Of Staff

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8th December 2009, 10:30am - Views: 461





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Fair Work Infoline: 13 13 94 


  



Media Release





       8 Dec 2009


Court fines Newcastle company over ‘arrogant

disregard for welfare’ of staff

NSW Chief Industrial Magistrate Gregory Hart has delivered a stinging rebuke to a

Newcastle company director whom he found had shown an “arrogant disregard

for the welfare of his employees”.

The Court has instructed the Newcastle Bakehouse to pay a $17,000 penalty by

January 1 after finding the company deliberately failed to keep proper

employment records.

The Fair Work Ombudsman prosecuted the company after it failed to produce

employment records for a number of former staff who had complained they had

been underpaid.

Handing down his 15-page decision, CIM Hart found the company had

“consistently ignored or rebuffed” efforts by the Fair Work Ombudsman to assist it

comply with its legal obligations. 

CIM Hart found that company director David Tape had shown “no trace of

remorse” for his failure to provide employees with such basic entitlements as a

regular payslip.

The Court heard allegations from former employees that the Newcastle

Bakehouse regularly withheld a week’s pay from staff, but refused to pay it back

when workers left the business. 

Former employees also alleged that staff were frequently not paid for all hours

worked and that the company failed to pay sick leave and annual leave

entitlements. 

CIM Hart noted that the company’s failure to maintain proper time-and-wages

records may make it extremely difficult for underpayments to be calculated – but

that they could amount to tens of thousands of dollars.

“Consequently, the deliberate failure to maintain proper records is likely to have

been motivated by the express desire to, firstly, hinder the employees in their

endeavours to work out what they should have been paid in any particular pay

period and secondly, make it difficult for the inspector to check the records for

the purpose of investigating the complaints of employees,” he said.

“In those circumstances, I am satisfied that the (company) had an obvious

motive, namely the desire to escape detection for its unlawful treatment of

employees over a period of time.

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Fair Work Infoline: 13 13 94 


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“Further, evidence before the Court supplied by former employees is that

although they were invited to write down on the weekly roster any hours worked

by them above and beyond the rostered hours, Mr Tape had a practice of

arbitrarily crossing out such entries, thereby doctoring the record …

“Given my findings as to the lack of any genuine contrition or remorse, I cannot

conclude that there is a low risk of this (company) reoffending. 

“The inadequate corrective action thrown together shortly before the hearing does

not warrant the conclusion that this (company) recognises the seriousness of its

conduct or that it has a genuine desire to change its ways.

“In those circumstances, there is also a need for a significant specific deterrence

factor to be included in any penalty imposed by the Court.”

Fair Work Ombudsman NSW Director Mark Davidson says the case sends a strong

reminder to all employers to keep adequate employment records.

“Failing to keep proper time-and-wages records is clearly not just a trivial,

technical matter,” he said.

“In this case, it was the employer’s refusal to hand over records, and the very

poor state of those records we did obtain, that prompted us to bring this matter

to Court.”

CIM Hart noted that workplace laws related to record-keeping are “fundamental

to the establishment of a fair system of industrial relations where minimum

standards are maintained and can be properly policed and employees protected

against exploitation”. 


The Fair Work Ombudsman has a range of user-friendly tools on its website to

assist employers understand their legal obligations to their workforce.


Employers or employees seeking assistance should contact the Fair Work Infoline

on 13 13 94 or visit www.fairwork.gov.au For translations call 13 14 50.




Media inquiries: 


Craig Bildstien, Director Media & Stakeholder Relations. 0419 818 484.

craig.bildstien@fwo.gov.au


Ryan Pedler, Senior Adviser Media & Stakeholder Relations. (03) 9954

2561, 0434 365 924. ryan.pedler@fwo.gov.au






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