In a spectacular but troubling example of wage underpayment, a cleaning business has been found guilty in court of not paying some workers a single cent, earning it one of the highest penalties ever handed down.
In what the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) said was a “near-record” WA penalty, Perth businessman Blagojce Djoneski and his company Goldfinger Facility Management were fined $51,000 and $255,000 respectively for withholding wages of six employees.
Mr Djoneski’s company won a cleaning contract for a hotel in the Perth CBD in 2014, yet failed to pay those workers whom the company supplied to fulfil the work.
Four housekeepers – a Briton and three South Koreans, employed on 417 working holiday visas – were not paid for between two and four weeks’ worth of work – amounting to a combined $9,359.
An Indian national employed on a Temporary Business Entry Visa was also not paid for 18 weeks of work as a marketing specialist, when he should have been paid more than $4,000.
However, it was not only overseas workers who were ripped off. An Australian citizen employed as Goldfinger Facility Management’s general manager was paid some but not all of his wages, contributing to a shortfall of more than $13,000.
In total, the underpayments and non-payments added up to $26,627. The monies were ordered to be paid back to the affected employees, in addition to the fines outlined above.
In the Federal Circuit Court, Judge Antoni Lucev found there had been “a complete disregard for Goldfinger’s legal obligations as an employer”, and added that Mr Djoneski and his company demonstrated an “absence of any expression of contrition, regret or acceptance of wrongdoing”.
According to the FWO, the $306,000 combined penalties are the second-largest ever handed down in Western Australia (behind the $343,860 fine given to another Perth cleaning company in 2013), and the seventh-highest Australia-wide.