Indian Origin Subcontractor Fined for Exploiting Migrant Workers in Australia
Jobanjeet Singh has been fined more than A$230,000 for underpaying to two refugee migrant workers in Australia.
An Indian origin trolley collection subcontractor has been fined more than A$230,000 for underpaying two refugee migrant workers in Bendigo, in regional Victoria, Australia, Fair Work Ombudsman said in a statement on April 16.
Jobanjeet Singh and his company underpaid two trolley collection workers a total of A$29,031 over a period of six months in 2015, which equated to an underpayment of almost 40 per cent of their total entitlements over the period, according to the statement.
“The Fair Work Ombudsman’s investigation revealed that the two workers had been paid rates ranging from A$9.73 to A$19.32 an hour. This resulted in underpayment of their minimum hourly rates, shift-work loadings, overtime rates and penalty rates for weekend and public holiday work. They were also underpaid superannuation and annual leave entitlements,” Fair Work Ombudsman stated.
Following an investigation and suit filed by Fair Work Ombudsman, the Federal Circuit Court fined Singh A$40,510 and his company was penalized a further A$190,128, according to the report.
The workers, aged 31 and 28, had recently come from Afghanistan and Pakistan, respectively as refugees and were working in Singh’s company. As a part of the inquiry, the inspectors visited 130 Woolworths supermarket sites across the country.
The workers, who had been granted permanent residency, were employed by the company to collect trolleys for Woolworths at Bendigo Marketplace as a part of subcontract with United Trolley Collections(UTC), Fair Work Ombudsman explained. United Trolley Collection no longer holds any contracts with Joban’s Trolley Collection and Joban’s no longer operates at any Woolworths sites, the statement added.
As the Fair Work investigation was going on, Singh’s company willfully provided inspectors with false records that mislead them about the rates the migrant workers were paid.
Judge Patrizia Mercuri brought this up when Singh claimed it wasn’t his intention to exploit the workers and claimed ignorance of his legal obligations.
“His conduct in creating false records and ensuring that United Trolley Collections did not become aware of his payment arrangements belies this explanation and suggests that he, in fact, was well aware that what he was doing was wrong,” Judge Mercuri said.
Judge Mercuri also observed that Singh had “employed individuals with limited skills and knowledge of English or capacity to enforce their rights”.
Noting that exploitation of vulnerable migrant workers is unacceptable, Acting Fair Work Ombudsman Kristen Hannah said that they will not hesitate to pursue any business operator who engages in exploitative conduct. United Trolley Collection now does not hold any contracts with Joban’s Trolley Collection. The company does not operate at any Woolworths sites. The worker’s underpayment was rectified once legal action against the company had started.