The Fair Work Ombudsman has secured more than $130,000 in penalties against a Victorian trolley collecting operator, who caused “financial and emotional hardship” to three workers by sacking them and refusing to pay unfair dismissal compensation.
Victorian man William Collen Hancock has been penalised $22,680 and his company WCH Services Pty Ltd has been penalised a further $113,400.
Mr Hancock and the business have provided trolley collecting services in the Latrobe Valley area, including at retail sites in Traralgon and Morwell.
The penalties, imposed in the Federal Circuit Court in Melbourne, are the result of three separate legal actions by the Fair Work Ombudsman in response to Mr Hancock and his company breaching the Fair Work Act by failing to comply with three unfair dismissal compensation orders from the Fair Work Commission.
Hancock and his company failed to pay compensation amounts of $17,392 and $4,446 to two employees unfairly dismissed in 2015, and $962 to a worker unfairly dismissed in 2016.
The workers contacted the Fair Work Ombudsman after the compensation was not paid.
The Fair Work Ombudsman made several requests for Mr Hancock and his company to comply with the compensation order, but they refused. In relation to one, Mr Hancock told the Fair Work Ombudsman he “would rather go to Gaol than give (the worker) one more cent”.
The compensation amounts remain unpaid, in addition to the penalties, Judge Norah Hartnett ordered Hancock and his company to pay the compensation amounts in full.
Judge Hartnett also ordered Hancock and his company to pay $12,491 in Fair Work Ombudsman legal costs.
Judge Hartnett found that Hancock and his company had caused the three workers “actual financial and emotional hardship”.
One worker gave evidence that it took him seven months to find alternative employment after he was dismissed, while another gave evidence that he has remained unemployed since he was dismissed in 2016.
The other worker gave evidence that he had to undertake further education to improve his employment prospects and had relocated to Queensland due to financial pressures.
Judge Hartnett found that the contraventions were deliberate and that Hancock and his company had not demonstrated any contrition or corrective action.
“The respondents have demonstrated no contrition or corrective action, in particular any action taken by the corporation to correct its illegal approach and change its behaviour,” Judge Hartnett said.
Judge Hartnett noted that WCH Services Pty Ltd continues to operate a business, with Hancock as a director, and said there was a need to impose a penalty that deterred them from further breaches.
“Any penalty imposed by the Court is required to resonate with the respondents’ such that they do not engage in any future non-compliance of workplace laws,” Judge Hartnett said.
Judge Hartnett also found that the penalties should deter others from failing to comply Fair Work Commission orders.
Fair Work Ombudsman, Natalie James, said the penalties imposed send a message that serious consequences apply for failing to comply with Fair Work Commission orders.
“Compliance with Fair Work Commission orders is fundamental for the integrity of the workplace relations system, and employers should be aware that the Fair Work Ombudsman will take action where appropriate.”