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Law

Alleged underpayment of migrant workers at United Petroleum sparks controversy

By Jack Campbell | |5 minute read

Legal action has begun to investigate the alleged underpayment of workers across United Petroleum outlets in Tasmania and South Australia.

In Tasmania, the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) initiated legal action alleging that four employees were underpaid a total of over $20,000 using false pay slips across two sites in Hobart.

The workers involved are migrants from India and Bangladesh who were in the country on visas. It is alleged they were paid under the normal rate, earning $16 to $23 an hour with no overtime paid. FWO believes they were knowingly underpaid and provided false pay slips and timesheets.

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FWO Anna Booth said exploited migrants are of key concern in reducing workplace discrepancies: “Employers need to be aware that taking action to protect potentially vulnerable workers, including visa holders and young workers, is among our top priorities.”

“Employees must be paid all entitlements – and pay must cover all hours actually worked. The alleged providing of false records is serious and unacceptable conduct. Employers should be aware our experienced inspectors will test whether time and wages records are legitimate. If you use false records, you will be found out.”

Ms Booth added: “Any employee with concerns about their pay or entitlements should contact the Fair Work Ombudsman for free advice and assistance.”

Facing court will be KLM Foods, which operated the Sandy Bay and Kingston outlets in Hobart; Vizaan, which employed a worker at the Kingston outlet; and Loveleen Gupta, who is allegedly involved in the operations of the Sandy Bay and Kingston outlets as the sole director of KLM Foods. Mr Gupta is also the husband of Vizaan’s sole director.

It is alleged that KLM Foods underpaid three workers a total of $15,116, and Vizaan underpaid one worker $5,114, with Mr Gupta reportedly involved in all underpayments.

Meanwhile, in South Australia, a separate action was commenced against the United Petroleum outlet in Queenstown, Adelaide.

FWO alleges that three employees were underpaid a total of $2,668 in annual leave entitlements after terminating employment with the company. Similarly, two of the workers were international students.

Sai Enterprises will face court over the 2021 incidents, including outlet manager Raman Monga.

The FWO also alleges the organisation breached workplace laws by not providing pay slips for employees within one working day of making a payment and failing to have written agreements for part-time staff.

Mr Monga is reported to be involved in the failure to pay annual leave on termination of employment for two of the workers and in the pay slips breach for all three workers.

FWO commented: “The companies face penalties of up to $66,600 per contravention, and Mr Gupta and Mr Monga face penalties of up to $13,320 per contravention (except for the alleged unlawful cashback contravention). KLM Foods Pty Ltd faces a penalty of up to $82,500, and Mr Gupta faces a penalty of up to $16,500 for the alleged unlawful cashback contravention.”

According to FWO, these charges were part of an audit of 20 United Petroleum outlets across Tasmania, South Australia, NSW, Queensland, and Victoria.

Jack Campbell

Jack Campbell

Jack is the editor at HR Leader.