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Trolley collection providers fined



Trolley collection providers have been fined more than $190,000 for exploiting a dozen overseas workers pushing trolleys at US-based discount chain Costco at Lidcombe, Sydney.

The Sydney Federal Circuit Court imposed the penalties in response to legal action by the Fair Work Ombudsman.

The 12 trolley collectors, 11 from South Korea and one from Iran, were vulnerable employees who spoke little English.

All males aged between 19 and 32 were in Australia on the 417 working holiday visa.

They were not paid anything at all for 11 days work in 2011. Collectively, they should have been paid more than $27,000.

The trolley pushers worked up to 105 hours during the 11 day period, including weekend, evening, and overtime shifts.

They were short changed amounts ranging from $1829 to $2830.

Judge, Michael Lloyd-Jones, issued the maximum penalty against one trolley collection provider with a history of exploiting vulnerable workers.

Businessman, Nick Iksidis, was penalised $39,600 for his role.

Jay Group Services was fined $109,725; its GM, Jatinder Singh, fined $23,760; and employee, Tejinder Singh Sandhu, $17,160.

Jay Group was also ordered to reimburse all workers their outstanding entitlements. Only one has been back paid to date.

It is the third time Iksidis and his company, Xidis, which traded as Effective Supermarket Services, have been penalised for exploiting trolley collectors.

Each was the result of litigation by the Fair Work Ombudsman and its predecessor agencies.

In 2007, Xidis and Iksidis were fined a total of $25,000 for failing to pay three Melbourne trolley collectors a total of $3523 in wages and entitlements.

And again in 2008, Xidis was fined $120,000 for underpaying 42 trolley collectors in Albury, NSW, a total of $100,000.

Iksidis’ latest penalty comes after Effective Supermarket Services entered into a contract with national supermarket operator Costco Wholesale Pty Ltd in 2011.

Costco paid Effective Supermarket Services a contract fee of $34,633 to provide trolley collecting services at its Lidcombe shopping centre from July 21, 2011 – until it terminated the contract on July 31.

Effective Supermarket Services then sub-contracted Jay Group Services to provide trolley collection services for a fee of $14,800.

Jay Group ultimately hired the 12 overseas workers as trolley collectors, promising them cash payments of $10 to $12 an hour.

After receiving complaints from the employees, the Fair Work Ombudsman investigated and subsequently commenced legal action because of the blatant nature of the underpayments and the refusal to rectify them.

Iksidis later admitted that he was involved in underpaying the trolley collectors and had breached workplace laws.

Judge Lloyd-Jones found that Iksidis’ history of non-compliance warranted a substantial penalty.

“The person who should have been the best informed and appropriately the most cautious in respect of the appropriate remuneration of employees was Iksidis,” Judge Lloyd-Jones said.

“Consequently, I believe that the maximum penalty for each contravention should be imposed.”

Judge Lloyd-Jones said there had been “a total failure to meet minimum standards of the most fundamental kind being a complete non-payment of wages and entitlements”.

“Further, there is a need for deterrence in the trolley collecting industry which is generally a low-skilled industry that often uses sub-contracting arrangements to avoid obligations under workplace law,” he said.

In the past six years, the Fair Work Ombudsman has recovered more than $433,000 in underpaid wages and entitlements for more than 500 trolley collectors throughout Australia.

In recent months, the Fair Work Ombudsman has stepped up its efforts to protect trolley collectors, warning the supermarket giants they can no longer turn a blind eye to the persistent problem of trolley collectors being exploited by sub-contractors.

As part of an Enforceable Undertaking entered into in October 2014, Coles became the first major supermarket chain to publicly declare it has an “ethical and moral responsibility” to join with the Fair Work Ombudsman to stamp out exploitation of trolley collectors.

Fair Work Ombudsman executive director, Tom O’Shea, says companies are at risk of breaching workplace law if they outsource work to low cost providers who failed to pay workers their minimum lawful entitlements.

“In cases where we believe breaches of workplace laws have occurred, we are committed to scrutinising the commercial processes behind those breaches and holding any involved parties to account.”

The Fair Work Ombudsman last year announced it would conduct a national review of the wages and conditions of overseas workers in Australia on the 417 working holiday visa.

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