A former subcontractor working on the NBN is facing legal action over claims that he failed to pay a teenage labourer for a total of 150 hours of work done in 2017.
The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) said in a statement that it has commenced court action against Bradley Wells, whose Sunshine Coast-based business Attain Solutions Pty Ltd went into liquidation last year.
Attain Solutions, it said, carried out civil works and underground services for telecommunications infrastructure projects, including for companies contracting to the NBN during its roll-out.
The FWO has alleged that Mr Wells failed to pay the 18-year-old for 150 hours of work in June 2017, where the labourer was laying pipes and digging trenches at a number of sites across the South East Queensland region.
It was alerted to alleged underpayment by the young labourer, and is launching the legal action following an investigation.
Ombudsman Sandra Parker said that young workers are often “particularly vulnerable to exploitation” because the may be reluctant to complain.
But she warned that non-payment of employees is illegal and will face “serious consequences”.
“Any employer that fails to comply with their fundamental obligation to pay wages for work performed will face serious consequences,” Ms Parker said.
“We urge any young workers with concerns about their wages or entitlements to contact the Fair Work Ombudsman for free advice and assistance.”
The matter is due to be heard in the Federal Circuit Court in Brisbane. The FWO is pushing for full back-payment for the labourer, and noted that if found guilty, Mr Wells also faces financial penalties of up to $10,800 for ever breach of workplace laws.
Those penalties may soon become even more severe, however, after the federal government on Thursday (7 March) gave in-principle support to all 22 recommendations made by the Migrant Workers’ Taskforce, including criminal sanctions (and potentially jail time) for employers found guilty of serious or serial underpayment of workers.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.