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Two Fijian men worked eight hours a day, seven days a week at the Port Adelaide docks for a living-away-from-home allowance of $100 a day, the Fair Work Ombudsman alleges.
The two were allegedly underpaid more than $25,000 by Sydney-based Devine Marine Group Pty Ltd, which provides shipping and marine salvage services.
The Fair Work Ombudsman has launched legal action against the company in the Federal Magistrates court in Adelaide, alleging it engaged the men under an unlawful unpaid training arrangement.
Also facing Court is Devine Marine Group sole director and majority-owner Captain Brett Barry Devine, of Sydney, and Adelaide Nautical College principal Arthur Boucaut-Jones, of Largs Bay in Adelaide.
Devine Marine Group allegedly recruited the two workers from Fiji, assisted them with accommodation, airfares and obtaining sub-class 456 Short Stay Business Visas and paid them a ‘living-away allowance’ of $100 a day.
The two workers allegedly performed three months and six months of work respectively, with duties including painting, welding and labouring.
However, the Fair Work Ombudsman alleges they were not paid any wages or superannuation under the premise that the work was part of purported unpaid-training being provided to them by the Australian Nautical College, in conjunction with Devine Marine Group.
Court documents allege that it was not lawful for the work to be classed as unpaid-training.
The Fair Work Ombudsman says the Australian Nautical College is not a registered training provider and the work was not part of any formal vocational placement, course or program.
In its Statement of Claim lodged with the Court, the Fair Work Ombudsman alleges that the workers should have been classified as casual employees and should have been paid more than $19 an hour on weekdays and up to $39 an hour on weekends.
It says the living-away allowance was a separate entitlement and did not reduce the wages the workers’ were entitled to be paid. The workers were allegedly underpaid $14,869 and $10,144 respectively.
The Fair Work Ombudsman discovered the alleged underpayments when it investigated a referral from a South Australian Government agency.
Acting Fair Work Ombudsman Mark Scully says a decision to prosecute was made because of the significant amount involved for two vulnerable, foreign workers and the employer’s failure to rectify the matter.
The Fair Work Ombudsman alleges Captain Devine and Mr Boucaut-Jones were involved in Devine Marine Group committing several under-payment related breaches of workplace laws.
It is alleged that Devine Marine Group and Captain Devine also breached workplace laws by failing to comply with a Notice to Produce employment records.
Captain Devine and Mr Boucaut-Jones face penalties of up to $6,600 per breach and Devine Marine Group faces penalties of up to $33,000 per breach.
The Fair Work Ombudsman is also seeking a Court Order that the company rectifies the alleged underpayments.
Information on workplace laws relating to internships, vocational placements and unpaid work is available for free download on the website.