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Meat processor has to backpay $3.2 million to workers

Queensland-based meat processor Australian Country Choice has entered into an enforceable undertaking with the Fair Work Ombudsman to pay back a total of $3.2 million to about 320 workers it underpaid.

Aug 16, 2022, updated Aug 16, 2022
Meatworkers were among those underpaid

Meatworkers were among those underpaid

The company self-reported the error in its payroll caused by contracts which contained unlawful and ineffective clauses which it believed enabled it to offset entitlements such as overtime through a higher rate of pay.

The error occurred at its Cannon Hill abattoir and meat processing facility at Cannon Hill between 2010 and 2021.

The FWO said at the same time it failed to monitor pay rates to ensure these were increased in line with increases in the national minimum wage.

“This led the companies to underpay employee entitlements and allowances including overtime, shift and meal allowances, public holiday penalty rates and annual leave loading. The companies also breached record-keeping and payslip laws,” the FWO said.

The underpayment totalled $2.5 million but when interest and superannuation were added, the total was $3.2 million.

Individual back payments would range from $1 to more than $134,000. The workers affected by the issue were meat workers, cleaners, stockpersons and store persons as well as clerks and logistics workers.

Acting Fair Work Ombudsman Michael Campbell said Australian Country Choice Holdings had co-operated and shown a strong commitment to rectify the underpayments.

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Under the enforceable undertaking it has to carry out audits of its workplace compliance over the next two years as well as report to the FWO.

The company also has to make a $200,000 contrition payment to the Commonwealth’s Consolidated Revenue Fund and operate a hotline for employees to enquire about their wages.

 

 

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