Underpayments come back to bite Symes Transport

Family-run business must come up with $227,704 in 12 months for the 44 employees it underpaid

Underpayments come back to bite Symes Transport
Underpayments come back to bite Symes Transport
February 4, 2013

Trucking operator Symes Transport has been ordered to back-pay its employees more than $220,000 for failing to pay correct entitlements over a four-year period.

The Federal Magistrates Court of Melbourne also fined company owners Michael Gregory Symes and Janice Mary Symes $5,940 each for breaching workplace laws. Symes Transport must come up with $227,704 within a year for the 44 employees it underpaid.

The court orders came in the wake of the Fair Work Ombudsman investigation into the company that revealed employees were not receiving correct hourly rates, overtime rates, shift and meal allowances and annual leave loading entitlements.

"The employees who have been underpaid have been deprived of the benefits of these amounts for a lengthy period of time," Federal Magistrate Norah Hartnett says.

Michael and Janice Symes admitted their business underpaid 44 employees a total of $251,942 between November 2005 and December 2009.

The biggest underpayment of an individual employee was $29,914. The workers were variously employed on a full-time, part-time or casual basis to load and/or drive trucks.

FWO inspectors first discovered the underpayments in 2009 when they investigated a complaint from an employee. Only a proportion of the underpayments have been rectified.

Hartnett says Michael and Janice Symes made inadequate effort to secure up-to-date information about applicable pay rates, leading to an "extremely large" amount of underpayments.

Fair Work Ombudsman Nicholas Wilson says the case sends a message that failing to comply with minimum pay rates is a serious matter and will not be tolerated.

"It is the obligation of employers to ensure they pay their employees their full entitlements," he says.

Symes Transport operates an express freight and courier service from its depots in Bendigo and Melbourne.

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