The Fair Work Ombudsman has commenced three legal actions against three companies and two individuals in relation to alleged underpayments of workers at United Petroleum outlets in Tasmania and South Australia.
In Tasmania, the FWO alleges four migrant workers were underpaid a total of more than $20,000 and false pay slips were used at United Petroleum outlets at Sandy Bay in Hobart and at Kingston, just south of Hobart.
Facing the Federal Circuit and Family Court in relation to the allegations are:
KLM Foods Pty Ltd, which operated the Sandy Bay and Kingston outlets;
Vizaan Pty Ltd, which employed a worker at the Kingston outlet, and
Mr Loveleen Gupta, who is allegedly involved in the operations of the Sandy Bay and Kingston outlets as the sole director of KLM Foods. Mr Gupta is also the husband of Vizaan’s sole director.
The Fair Work Ombudsman has commenced separate litigations against KLM Foods and Vizaan, and Mr Gupta is a respondent in both proceedings.
The FWO’s Tasmanian legal actions relate to four migrant workers from India and Bangladesh, who were in Australia on visas, when they worked for KLM Foods and Vizaan at the United Petroleum outlets at Sandy Bay and Kingston.
One was a junior, aged 19-20 at the time.
It is alleged the workers were paid unlawfully low flat rates, resulting in a total of $20,230 in underpayments between December 2020 and February 2021.
The four workers were allegedly paid flat rates ranging from $16 and $23 per hour for a fixed number of hours per week and not paid anything for extra hours worked.
The alleged underpayments for three of the workers were rectified after the FWO began investigating – however, it is alleged that KLM Foods and Mr Gupta also breached the Fair Work Act by requiring one of the workers to make an unlawful cashback payment of $6,353 to KLM Foods in June 2023.
The FWO also alleges KLM Foods and Vizaan knowingly provided workers with false pay slips and that KLM Foods also knowingly provided FWO with false timesheets.
Fair Work Ombudsman Anna Booth said alleged underpayments of visa holders are treated particularly seriously.
“Employers need to be aware that taking action to protect potentially vulnerable workers, including visa holders and young workers, is among our top priorities,” Ms Booth said.
“Employees must be paid all entitlements – and pay must cover all hours actually worked.”
“The alleged providing of false records is serious and unacceptable conduct. Employers should be aware our experienced inspectors will test whether time and wages records are legitimate. If you use false records you will be found out.”
“Any employee with concerns about their pay or entitlements should contact the Fair Work Ombudsman for free advice and assistance.”
The Tasmanian workers were allegedly variously underpaid minimum wages, overtime rates, and penalty rates for weekend, public holiday and afternoon-shift work, under the Vehicle Repair, Services and Retail Award 2020.
It is alleged that KLM Foods underpaid three workers a total of $15,116 and Vizaan underpaid one worker $5,114, with Mr Gupta allegedly involved in all underpayments.
Laws related to record-keeping and having written agreements for part-time staff were allegedly also breached.
In South Australia, the FWO has commenced a separate action alleging that three workers were not paid a total of $2,668 in accrued but untaken annual leave entitlements at the conclusion of their employment at the United Petroleum outlet at Queenstown in Adelaide, in 2021. Two of the workers were international students.
Facing the Federal Circuit and Family Court in relation to the allegation is Sai Enterprises Pty Ltd, which operated the Queenstown outlet, and the outlet’s manager, Raman Monga.
The FWO also alleges Sai Enterprises breached workplace laws by failing to issue the workers with pay slips within one working day of making a payment and failing to have written agreements for part-time staff.
It is alleged Mr Monga was involved in the failures to pay annual leave on termination of employment for two of the workers and in the pay slips breach for all three workers.
The Queenstown outlet workers were back-paid in full after the FWO started investigating.
The Fair Work Ombudsman is seeking penalties in Court against KLM Foods, Vizaan, Sai Enterprises, Mr Gupta and Mr Monga for multiple alleged contraventions.
The companies face penalties of up to $66,600 per contravention, and Mr Gupta and Mr Monga faces penalties of up to $13,320 per contravention (except for the alleged unlawful cashback contravention). KLM Foods Pty Ltd faces a penalty of up to $82,500 and Mr Gupta faces a penalty of up to $16,500 for the alleged unlawful cashback contravention.
The FWO is also seeking a court order requiring KLM Foods to rectify the alleged cashback underpayment.
The Fair Work Ombudsman investigated KLM Foods, Vizaan and Sai Enterprises as part of an investigation into the United Petroleum network that commenced in response to concerns about non-compliance in the network.
The investigation involved audits of 20 United Petroleum-branded outlets across Tasmania, Queensland, NSW, Victoria and South Australia.