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Asia Pacific – Filipino staffing firm underpaid workers

19 June 2013

The Australian Fair Work Ombudsman has launched legal action against Philippines-based labour hire company InterOrient Maritime. They allege that while in Australian waters InterOrient failed to comply with a demand to pay their Filipino crew according to Australian workplace laws.

It is alleged the company underpaid 20 Filipino employees a total of USD 14,498 (AUD 13,513) over a nine-day period in July 2011. The crew members, working on a foreign ship, had been granted an Australian Government permit to transport cargo between Ceduna, in South Australia and Melbourne. 

Under Australian workplace laws, in certain circumstances employees on board foreign ships operating under a permit in Australian waters must be paid according to Australian minimum pay rates.

It is alleged that in December 2012, a Fair Work Inspector issued InterOrient Maritime Enterprises a Compliance Notice demanding full rectification of the underpayment within 28 days but the company failed to comply. It is also alleged that InterOrient failed to meet the requirements of the Compliance Notice and did not seek to have it reviewed.

Under the Fair Work Act, employers must comply with Compliance Notices issued by Fair Work Inspectors or make a court application for a review of the Compliance Notice if they are seeking to challenge it.

Acting Fair Work Ombudsman, Michael Campbell, said the decision to launch legal action was made because enforcing compliance with Compliance Notices was fundamental for maintaining the integrity of Australia’s workplace laws.

InterOrient Maritime Enterprises now faces a maximum penalty of USD 28,029 (AUD 25,500). The Fair Work Ombudsman is also seeking a Court Order for the company to back-pay the employees in full. The case is being heard in the Federal Circuit Court in Sydney.

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