Fair Work Australia has reported “widespread” incidence of underpayment at United Petroleum outlets.
A Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) Activity Report identified that 19 staff members were underpaid $12,105.09.
According to the report, many of the underpaid employees were migrant workers who had minimal knowledge of their rights and entitlements.
The Fair Work Ombudsman commenced compliance activity at United Petroleum fuel retail sites in 2015 after reports that some operators were being underpaid.
Out of 440 United Petroleum outlets across Australia, 12 businesses were checked.
Of those 12 it was reported that:
- 40% of businesses were non-compliant;
- Issues with award rates and penalties were found;
- Underpayments of $29,550.83;
- 50% of employees were visa holders.
Of the 12 sites investigated, 11 were owned by franchisees or commission agents: One site was operated by Keycomp, an entity associated with United Petroleum.
A spokeswoman for the company said United Petroleum had not seen the FWO report but would like to do so.
“We have no information relating to any compliance percentage,” she said.
“United takes the payment of wages very seriously and demands that our franchisees comply in every regard.
“If we become aware of any issue we act very quickly to ensure that Franchisees comply with the law in every respect.
The spokesperson said the company would continue to educate and work with franchisees in that regard.
“We would like to categorically emphasize that we have zero tolerance of wage fraud, and any Franchisee engaging in this behaviour will be counselled and trained to ensure full compliance,” she said.
“Any subsequent breaches will result in them being terminated from our network.
“In the case of Keycomp – this company no longer trades but it did make some payment errors in 2015. All affected workers were back paid for all short paid amounts.
“United Petroleum always pays the correct rates and always act quickly to address any anomaly.
The spokesperson said that United had been in discussions with FWO about entering into a compliance deed, and that these conversations were ongoing.
“In fact, FWO has indicated to United that they may seek to change the nature and operation of such deeds and are conducting their own examination into the suitability of compliance deeds generally,” she said.
“United is awaiting the outcome of those deliberations and are ready to continue the discussion at the appropriate time.”
The underpayments were found to have been a result applying flat rates of pay for all hours worked as well as incorrectly applying award penalty rates.
Fair Work is considering broadening its investigations into Keycomp’s actions, to further investigate whether its directors have breached workplace laws.