Adelaide trolley collection contractors fined

Supermarket KartsFormer trolley collection contractors for Woolworths, Coles and Foodland have been fined more than $90,000 for paying overseas workers at Adelaide shopping centres as little as $8 an hour.

About 38 trolley collectors were collectively underpaid a total of $85,367 when they worked at shopping centres in Marion, West Lakes, Elizabeth, Kurralta Park and Fairview Park between February 2009 and November 2010. Woolworths, Coles, Foodland, Big W, Kmart, Target and Dan Murphy’s operated at these sites at the time.

Most of the underpaid trolley collectors were male overseas workers in their 20s from Korea, Nepal, Burma and India and majority of them were in Australia on student and tourist visas.

Ki Bok Jin from Adelaide, who deliberately underpaid the workers through his now defunct trolley collecting company South Jin Pty Ltd, has been penalised $44,350.

Coastal Trolley Services Pty Ltd, which sub-contracted Jin’s company to provide trolley collection services, has also been penalised $38,000 and its major shareholder and director Edward Stroop a further $8500.

The penalties, imposed in the Federal Court, are the result of an investigation and legal action by the Fair Work Ombudsman.

The court ordered that most of the penalties be paid to the workers.

Under the Cleaning Services Award, permanent full time employees were entitled to receive at the time more than $14 and casual employees more than $17 for ordinary hours and more than $30 for some weekend and overtime work.

Superannuation entitlements were also underpaid.

Justice Richard White found that Jin, through his company, had “adopted, deliberately, a system which would result in underpayments and sought to disguise that by producing wage records which were not just inaccurate, but false”.

White said the underpaid workers were young men with limited English and limited knowledge of their entitlements.

“This meant that they were less likely to complain about their treatment. In this sense, they were a group of vulnerable employees,” he said.

After a contested hearing, White found that Coastal Trolley Services, which had been contracted by a company called Integrated Trolley Management Pty Ltd that held head trolley collection services contracts with Coles, Woolworths and Foodland, was an accessory for about half the underpayments.

Coastal Trolley Services, which ceased trading in 2012, and South Jin, which was deregistered in 2014, are no longer involved in any supply chains.

Fair Work ombudsman, Natalie James, said that outsourcing work to the lowest-cost contractor and turning a blind eye to whether the contractor pays workers correctly is not acceptable conduct.

“The law can extend legal liability to individuals involved in procurement and to companies further up the supply chain,” she said.

“Increasingly, if we find a business underpaying workers and that business is part of a supply chain, we are looking up the supply chain to the companies that are the price-makers and controls the settings.”

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