Trucking company underpays workers $240k; owner cops $13k fine

By: Brad Gardner

Part-owner of failed trucking company Doble Express Transport fined after workers were underpaid almost $240,000.

The part-owner of a failed trucking firm has copped a small fine for his part in an almost $240,000 rip-off committed against three former employees. 

The Federal Circuit Court fined Graeme John Doble $13,200 for a series of underpayments that occurred at Doble Express Transport between 2007 and 2013. 

The New South Wales company did not pay correct rates for shift work, overtime and public holidays under the relevant industrial awards. 

Truck driver Colin McIntosh, who has since died, was owed almost $93,000.

Bernadette Dean was underpaid $86,314, while Kathleen McGregor was not paid $60,111 owed to her.

Doble admitted to failing to pay correct entitlements to Dean and McIntosh, who were based at the company’s Dubbo depot.

McGregor was employed at Doble Express Transport’s Orange depot.

"I am satisfied that a total penalty of $13,200 is appropriate in the circumstances," judge Sylvia Emmett says.

The judge ordered that Doble’s fine be divvied up between Dean, McGregor and the estate of McIntosh. 

Emmett had the power to issue a maximum fine of $39,600 but ruled the penalty should not be "crushing or oppressive".

She says Doble, who had been a director of the company since 1984, had lengthy experience in the industry and should have been aware of the entitlements due to the three employees.

Emmett says underpayments to Dean continued for at least three months after the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) issued a letter to the company notifying it of the breaches.

"The total loss suffered by the three employees was $239,364.29. That is a significant loss to the employees," Emmett says.

"The contraventions involved a failure to pay the employees the correct hourly rate for regular hours worked, overtime, shift loadings, public holiday rates and allowances due under the relevant industrial instruments."

The FWO, which prosecuted Doble, did take legal action against the trucking company but had to stop because the firm went into administration.

Doble’s wife now operates a similar transport business.

During proceedings, the court heard there was no guarantee the underpayments would be rectified. 

After Doble Express Transport went into administration, Doble signed a deed of company arrangement to pay $10,000 a month into two funds until the total reached $225,000.

Payments from the two funds will be made to creditors once the total is reached. 

However, there is only $105,000 in the fund to date and Doble last made a payment in February. 

"In the circumstances, while there is a prospect that the employees may receive their outstanding entitlements, they also may not," Emmett says.

"There is no evidence to identify what payment any of the employees will ultimately receive from the deed funds."

Emmett says Doble has not made any other payments to the employees to mitigate the losses they have incurred. 

Doble Express Transport was an express freight service across regional New South Wales and was contracted to Australia Post when the underpayments occurred.

The FWO says it made extensive efforts to resolve the matter before beginning legal proceedings.

It says the penalty issued to Doble should serve as a reminder to other company directors they can be held accountable for their actions.


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