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Labour hire firm faces class action for unpaid leave

WorkPac applicants
WorkPac applicants

Casual workers who were employed through a recruitment company could receive back payment for leave entitlements, an industry body revealed.

The Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) is taking further legal action against WorkPac Group to seek compensation for members who did not receive paid leave due to workforce casualisation.

3000 potential claims

WorkPac employs more than 3000 coal mine workers for its clients, which include BHP, Glencore and Anglo American. The Australian Associated Press estimates potential claims across all industries could be worth up to $8 billion.

“CFMEU Mining and Energy has filed a class action lawsuit against labour hire company WorkPac, to win back millions of dollars in unpaid entitlements for our members who have been ripped off as casuals,” the union said on its website.

“Coal mine workers who are union members and have been employed by WorkPac as a casual for a period of three months or more since 2013 are eligible to take part in the class action. Relevant workers who are not currently union members are also encouraged to register their interest in joining the class action.”

Click here to register for the class action.

No fee

CFMEU promised to fully fund the class action without deducting legal fees from any entitlements won.

“All of the entitlements won through the class action will be paid directly to affected members, with none lost to legal fees,” the website said. “The union will not take a cut from any compensation order or settlement reached on behalf of members.”

The remarks came after the Federal Court rejected WorkPac’s appeal against an earlier decision that casualisation of the workforce is against the law. The court found the company employed Robert Rossato on six different casual work contracts between July 2014 and April 2018, even though he should have become a full-time employee after working more than 48 weeks in his first 12 months.

“[After] working more than 48 weeks, he ceased to be a part-time employee, and became a full-time employee for the purposes of the enterprise bargaining agreement, and that he was thereafter entitled to the benefits that were payable to a full-time employee,” Justice Richard White said in the final judgment.

Underpaid

WorkPac argued it fairly compensated Rossato for his 22.3 weeks of untaken annual leave, three days of public holidays he did not work, and compassionate/personal/carer’s leave through adding a 20 per cent loading to his hourly earnings.

However, the court found the extra money would only cover public holidays, annual leave and sick leave but not any ordinary time or overtime Rossato worked.

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“These entitlements were statutory entitlements, and the contracts of employment were not effective to the extent that they purported to take them away,” White said.

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