The owner of a business is in hot water after allegedly threatening staff that they will be sent “straight to the dole queue” if they spoke with inspectors from the Fair Work Ombudsman.
Adam Marcinkowski, who owns Gold Coast security firm VIP Security Services, is facing court for underpaying three workers close to $16,000 between April 2015 and June 2016. However, it is his alleged unlawful treatment of employees and attempts to cover up the underpayment uncovered during subsequent investigations which has earned the full wrath of the regulator.
Over two years to April 2017, VIP Security Services is contracted to work at a range of sites by Gold Coast City Council, including three public libraries.
Some of the sites have been visited by Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) inspectors as part of routine random inspections. Following these visits, it is alleged that Mr Marcinkowski has told a supervisor in the business to inform all security guards that their employment would be immediately terminated if they have direct contact with the inspectors.
In launching legal action against Mr Marcinkowski, FWO is accusing him of allegedly telling a supervisor during a phone call: “Can you just do me a favour, get around all the sites and if I hear that any one of our guards has spoken to them (Fair Work), they can just f…... go straight to the dole queue”.
Mr Marcinkowski allegedly also told the supervisor: “If they talk to those f……, if I find out who, that somebody’s talked to them, right, they’re getting the sack”.
The threats have reportedly been made good on, with one full-time employee allegedly yelled at and later sacked after seeking advice on his rights at work.
Two more employees are also allegedly dismissed for unlawful reasons: one for refusing to sign a backdated agreement which would have retroactively removed his leave entitlements, and another for not returning to work immediately after spending several days in hospital with pneumonia – in violation of several sections of the Fair Work Act.
According to FWO, VIP Security Services has since repaid the $15,938 in underpaid wages to the affected employees, but ombudsman Natalie James said in a statement that legal action has been launched because of the seriousness of the alleged breaches of law.
“It is completely unacceptable for an employer to take adverse action against a worker, including dismissing them, for exercising basic workplace rights,” she said.
“It is also completely unacceptable for an employer to tell workers to sign up to an agreement when they have been directly advised that it fails to meet award conditions.”
The company and Mr Marcinkowski face steep penalties if convicted, with maximum fines of $54,000 for VIP Security and $10,800 for Mr Marcinkowski personally for each and every confirmed breach of the law.
The matter will be heard in Brisbane’s Federal Circuit Court on 14 August.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.