A WOOLGOOLGA man who underpaid workers more than $143,000 and funnelled company money into his own house deposit has been fined $41,208.
The Fair Work Ombudsman was unable to take legal action against Sumerdeep Singh's former groceries delivery company, Sumer Bagri, because it went into liquidation.
But after a complaint from an employee, the Ombudsman found 12 truck drivers had been short-changed $143,600 over three years.
The Federal Circuit Court heard Singh, himself a former delivery driver, admitted to the underpayments.
He also confessed to withdrawing $45,000 from the company's bank accounts to pay a deposit on a house, despite not paying the drivers what they were owed.
The court heard Singh doctored employee records in an effort to cover up the scam, even falsifying documents to claim he was driving when he was actually in India.
The company delivered groceries ordered online under a sub-contract with Linfox Australia, which had been contracted by Woolworths.
Judge Justin Smith said the price paid to Sumer Bagri was more than enough for Singh to pay his workers their minimum entitlements.
"… There is no excuse for deliberately falsifying records in order to deceive inspectors … and so divert them from their duty," he said.
Mr Singh was ordered to pay $41,208 to the truck drivers he ripped off, still well below the $143,600 they were owed.
Acting Fair Work Ombudsman Mark Scully said the decision proved how seriously courts treated those who sought to profit at their workforce's expense.
While both Woolworths and Linfox had no involvement in the contraventions, Mr Scully said better oversight of their supply chain may have helped avoid the underpayments.
"Outsourcing is a legitimate business arrangement - but in our experience, in highly competitive markets, it also increases the risk that workers will be underpaid, sometimes quite deliberately," he said.
"Businesses at the top of the supply chain should maintain a level of control and oversight that enables them to be confident that the workers at their worksites and in their supply chains are receiving their full lawful entitlements."
- ARM NEWSDESK
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