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Fuel company caught underpaying staff changes hands

Westside Petroleum
Westside Petroleum

A petroleum company, which was fined for incorrectly remunerating its workers, has been completely sold off.

Westside Petroleum has sold its remaining 50 per cent stake to major shareholder Viva Energy. The transaction for an undisclosed sum came just 21 months after Viva previously bought a half stake in the target company.

“Viva Energy’s full acquisition of Westside Petroleum will continue to support the company’s retail growth plans, and strengthen its Shell Card offering,” the bidder said in a public statement. “Viva Energy would like to thank outgoing Westside Petroleum managing director Terry Makhlouf and CEO Patrick Riad for their respective contributions and their leadership since the initial acquisition in August 2018.”

The deal is pending approval from the Foreign Investment Review Board and Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

‘Unlawfully low’ pay

The Fair Work Ombudsman fined Westside and three management staff back in October 2019 for allegedly underpaying 22 employees between July 2015 and May 2016 to the sum of $62,393.

Affected workers were allegedly paid “unlawfully low, flat rates” of between $15 and $25 an hour without penalty rates in Lismore, Victoria and several New South Wales cities including Adaminaby, Wagga Wagga, Finley, Gurley, Somerton, Temora, Tolland, Blayney, Glen Innes, Peak Hill and Cooma.

Youth and foreigners affected

Four of them were just 19-years-old at the time, two were visa holders and another was working on a 489 regional sponsored visa. All employees were back paid in full.

The Federal Circuit Court ordered the employer to pay $45,000 while general manager Patrick Riad, accountant Francesco Leraci and area manager Shahzaib Khawaja were each fined $4000 for failing to pay casual weekday, weekend, public holiday and overtime rates guaranteed by the Vehicle Manufacturing, Repair, Services and Retail Award.

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“It is unacceptable that Westside Petroleum focussed on the growth of its business and failed to have proper regard to very basic employer obligations,” Judge Robert Cameron said in a public statement. “The commercial imperative to seize new business opportunities can explain distraction from issues of compliance but it does not excuse it.”

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