Newspaper article Gympie Times, The Qld.

Backpackers Lodged Request

Newspaper article Gympie Times, The Qld.

Backpackers Lodged Request

Article excerpt

A GOOMERI feedlot operator is being pursued by the Fair Work Ombudsman for allegedly underpaying six backpackers a total of $38,000.

The six from the UK and Ireland were in Australia on a 417 working holiday visa when they worked at the farm in order to qualify for a second-year extension to their visa.

The Fair Work Ombudsman alleges they were paid a flat rate of $17 an hour and collectively short-changed more than $38,000.

The agency announced today it had begun legal action against Robert Maudsley, who owns and operates a cattle feedlot at Goomeri.

Also facing court is Mr Maudsley's company, Waterfall Feedlot Pty Ltd.

The backpackers, five men and one woman in their 20s, were allegedly underpaid a total of $38,254 for work they performed on the farm between January, 2014 and September, 2015.

They went to work on the farm after responding to advertisements on the Gumtree website because they wanted to stay in Australia for two years.

To be eligible for a second year, 417 visa-holders must undertake 88 days specified work in a designated regional area and in certain industries in their first year.

The backpackers allegedly worked up to 13 hours a day, six-or-seven days a week, performing duties including driving tractors and dump trucks, feeding and mustering cattle and assisting to remove dead animals from pens.

It is alleged that three of the backpackers did not have a single day off during their employment, respectively working 64, 80 and 88 consecutive days.

Under the Pastoral Award 2010, the backpackers should have been paid between $16.37 and $17.79 for ordinary hours and up to $37.96 for overtime work.

Public holiday pay and leave entitlements were allegedly also underpaid.

The largest alleged individual underpayment is $11,592.

Mr Maudsley and his company also allegedly failed to comply with a requirement to ensure a copy of the Pastoral Award was made available to employees on the farm.

The Fair Work Ombudsman investigated after the backpackers lodged requests for assistance.

The Fair Work Ombudsman said the agency had previously received complaints from four other workers at the farm, including two backpackers, alleging underpayment of wages.

The previous matters resulted in almost $4000 being reimbursed to workers who had been underpaid.

The agency said Mr Maudsley has previously been advised of his obligations under federal workplace laws and the need to comply with minimum wage rates.

Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James says the decision to litigate over the latest alleged contraventions followed concern that Mr Maudsley was allegedly continuing to recruit and underpay vulnerable overseas backpackers.

Mr Maudsley faces maximum penalties of up to $10,800 per contravention and Waterfall Feedlot Pty Ltd faces penalties of up to $54,000 per contravention. …

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