A Sydney company is preparing its defence against allegations it underpaid foreign workers $360,000 in wages.

Based in Rockdale in Sydney’s southern suburbs, Palcoy Pty Ltd is alleged to have underpaid 21 immigrant casual workers.

The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) alleges the company underpaid its casual workers from 2006 to 2009. One employee is allegedly owed in excess of $31,000.

All of the employees were women of Chinese heritage. Most were immigrants who spoke very little English.

Trading as Pack One and Post, the company’s business operations include printing, labelling, packing and plastic wrapping services to client companies. Employees were tasked with assembling, packaging and posting of printed materials sent to advertising companies.

FWO alleges the company’s employees were paid flat rates ranging from $11 and $13 per hour, thereby resulting in underpayments of minimum hourly rates, casual loadings, overtime rates and public holiday penalty rates. In addition, FWO alleges laws relating to minimum engagement periods were also breached.

The company was reported to have partially rectified some underpayments, however FWO alleges more than $250,000 remains outstanding to 15 employees.

The company director and part-owner, Mr John Watts, is also facing FWO prosecution for allegedly committing the company to breach of workplace laws.

FWO is also seeking a court order at the Federal Magistrates Court (FMC) for the company to fully compensate the workers with the alleged underpayments.

Under the Fair Work Act, Mr Watts potentially faces fines of up to $6,600 per breach as an individual. As a company, Palcoy potentially faces fines of up to $33,000 per breach.

A directions hearing was listed in the FMC in Sydney on 12 November 2012 and will proceed to a full court hearing on 04 December 2012.

AMMA will monitor this case and will provide an update for members when the court hands down its judgment.

Implications for Members

This case emphasises the care that needs to be taken in providing equal and lawful terms and conditions of employment to its workers, whether they are local employees or sponsored employees on visas that carry work rights. The penalties for breaching Australian workplace and immigration laws are not only high, but they also attract unwanted attention to an individual or a company.

AMMA is available to confidentially discuss any workplace relations or immigration issues that may affect members.

For more information, contact AMMA Manager Migration Services Jules Pedrosa on (02) 9211 3566 or via [email protected]

For the Fair Work Ombudsman media release, click here.