United Petroleum service stations alleged to have underpaid workers

The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) has taken the operators of three United Petroleum service stations to court over allegations they underpaid workers.

The FWO alleges that four migrant workers from India and Bangladesh, who were in Australia on visas, were issued false pay slips and underpaid a total of more than $20,000 at United Petroleum outlets at Sandy Bay and Kingston in Hobart.

It is alleged the workers were paid unlawfully low flat rates from $16 and $23 per hour for a fixed number of hours per week and not paid anything for extra hours worked, resulting in a total of $20,230 in underpayments between December 2020 and February 2021.

One was a junior, aged 19-20 at the time.

David Szymczak, CEO of United Petroleum, told C&I that United Petroleum is in no way involved in the investigation or the allegations made.

“United requires all its third-party operators to comply with workplace laws at all times and provides systems and support to ensure that they do so. We take appropriate action to rectify and address any non-compliance that is found to have occurred.”

The FWO has commenced separate litigation against two companies: KLM Foods, which operated the Sandy Bay and Kingston outlets, and Vizaan, which employed a worker at the Kingston outlet.

Both companies will face the Federal Circuit and Family Court in relation to the allegations.

Loveleen Gupta, who is allegedly involved in the operations of the Sandy Bay and Kingston outlets as the sole director of KLM Foods and the husband of Vizaan’s sole director, is a respondent in both proceedings.

It is alleged that KLM Foods underpaid three workers a total of $15,116 and Vizaan underpaid one worker $5,114, with Gupta allegedly involved in all underpayments.

The alleged underpayments for three of the workers were rectified after the FWO began investigating; however, it is alleged that KLM Foods and 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.

Separate legal action is also being taken amid claims three workers, two of whom are international students, were not paid a total of $2,668 in accrued but untaken annual leave entitlements at the conclusion of their employment at a United Petroleum outlet in Queenstown, Adelaide, in 2021.

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.

“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.”

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