Non-English speaking migrants allegedly underpaid more than $91000 in Victoria

One migrant was allegedly underpaid more than $37,000 while the other two were each underpaid more than $27,000 respectively.

The Fair Work Ombudsman has commenced legal action against one of Australia’s largest celery producers, alleging it underpaid three visa holders $91,907 across one year.

Facing court is A & G Lamattina & Sons Pty Ltd (Lamattina), whose farm is at Boneo on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula. The FWO investigated the company after receiving requests for assistance from three farmhands who alleged they had not been paid during extended periods of their employment.

It is alleged that Lamattina underpaid the farmhands between February 2020 and February 2021.

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One of the farmhands was allegedly underpaid more than $37,000 while the other two were each underpaid more than $27,000 respectively.

The regulator alleges that, during the relevant period, one worker was only paid for 10 out of 52 weeks worked; another was only paid for six out of 36 weeks; and the other was only paid for eight out of 41 weeks worked.

The FWO alleges Lamattina therefore breached the Fair Work Act when it failed to pay the employees in full and at least monthly. It allegedly failed to pay minimum wages, casual loading, overtime and public holiday rates owed under the Horticulture Award 2010 and Horticulture Award 2020.

The farmhands are from non-English speaking backgrounds – they speak Indonesian and Malay – and held bridging visas when employed by Lamattina. They performed tasks such as planting, picking and cutting celery on a casual basis.

Acting Fair Work Ombudsman Mark Scully said taking action to improve compliance in the agriculture sector and protect vulnerable workers were priorities for the FWO.

“The agriculture sector, including horticulture, engages many vulnerable workers, such as visa holders, who may be unaware of their rights or unwilling to speak up to their employer. Visa holders have the same workplace rights as all other workers,” Mr Scully said.

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“Employers who allegedly fail to pay for all time worked are being found out and risk facing penalties.

“Any employees with concerns about their pay or entitlements should contact the Fair Work Ombudsman for free advice and assistance.”

Lamattina rectified the alleged underpayments in full in February 2023 – at least two years after the relevant work period.

The Fair Work Ombudsman is seeking penalties against A & G Lamattina & Sons Pty Ltd for alleged contraventions of the Fair Work Act. The company faces penalties of up to $66,600 per contravention.

A directions hearing is listed in the Federal Circuit and Family Court in Melbourne on 2 October 2023.

The Fair Work Ombudsman has an agreement with the Department of Home Affairs, called the Assurance Protocol, where visa holders with work rights can ask for our help without fear of visa cancellation. Details are available at our webpage for visa holder workers.

Across all sectors, the FWO filed 138 litigations involving visa holder workers, and secured $15 million in court-ordered penalties in litigations involving visa holders, in the six financial years to June 2023.

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