Class Action Lawsuit Over Underpayments

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Meena S
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Casual employees have a more limited set of entitlements than permanent employees. Casual employees are generally paid an hourly rate. They receive a loading of 20-25% to compensate them for their lack of entitlements compared to permanent employees.

The subject in question was an Australian labor-hire firm Skilled Workforce Solutions and related entities (Skilled (Programmed)). They are a labour leasing firm providing skilled labour in the construction, manufacturing and warehousing industries. Programmed was owned by Japanese staffing firm Persol. Programmed supplies labour to Yancoal, a coal producer, at two major black coal mines in the NSW Hunter Valley.

They made the news when Australian Law Firm, Adero Law decided to bring in a class-action lawsuit against Skilled Workforce Solutions and related entities. The issue was that the labour firm had misclassified its workers as ‘casual’ employees, rather than permanent employees with the appropriate statutory entitlements.

According to the Australian Financial Review, Adero accused Skilled Workforce Solutions of underpaying up to 3,000 casual mine workers between AUD 15,000 (USD 10,200) and AUD 25,000 (USD 17,000) each, in a Federal Court case filed last week.

The claimants allege that although they were employed by Skilled as ‘casual’ employees, as they were working to long-term rosters, they were in reality ‘permanent’ employees. Due to that misclassification, the claimants are owed unpaid annual and personal leave entitlements, which they now claim from Skilled.

Adero said it is clear that the ‘black coal industry had made it common practice to casualise a large part of its workforce, to create a two-tier workforce. It is due to the lack of opportunities in the organised sector that people start working as casual workers. Further, the flexibility in terms of working conditions and no special follow up of labour Laws etc. makes companies recruit more casual workers.

Many firms use this ‘loophole’ to take advantage of the number of employees who are willing to be signed up in the ‘casual’ category, without an understanding of the gravity of the situation or what they could be missing out in the process.

This is where the role of a global employment agency such as Future Focus Infotech come in. Before signing up a contract for a job, a prospect would do good to understand the intricacies and formalities of what they are getting themselves into.

In Australia, 35% of all workers are casual or contract employees who are not paid for sick leave or annual leave. They are being denied their rights and are unaware of it. Whilst some firms deliberately take advantage of the situation, and should be penalised for the same; it would do well for employees to connect with global employment agencies to educate themselves with their rights and rightful compensation.

Rory Markham, Adero Law’s Managing Principal, commented, “Adero is bringing the fight to big mining. The industry is failing its employees at a time when it is making the fattest profits. You’ve been told to wait for that permanent shirt, but permanent gigs left this industry five years ago. You now earn less money than miners were getting 15 years ago – but people stay silent and pretend that it’s normal. It is not normal for a casual worker to be paid substantially less than a permanent employee. It is not normal for one worker to earn up to $75,000.00 more per year than another worker doing the same job, on the same roster – just wearing a different shirt.”

With growing awareness of the grave situation at hand, many thousands of eligible workers are now likely to join the class-action and fight for compensation.

The law firm is said to be backing the class-action on a “no win, no fee” basis.

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