ACUG NSW And ACUG SA Sign Enforceable Undertaking

Container unloading businesses A.C.U.G. (NSW) Pty Ltd and A.C.U.G. (SA) Pty Ltd are back-paying about $149,000 including superannuation to 923 underpaid staff, and have signed an Enforceable Undertaking (EU) with the Fair Work Ombudsman.

ACUG NSW and ACUG SA are part of the ACUG (Australian Container Unloading Group) brand, which provides container unloading services nationwide.

The Fair Work Ombudsman investigated their compliance with workplace laws after receiving a request for assistance from an employee.

The investigation found ACUG NSW and ACUG SA had engaged casuals on a piece rate basis – paying them per container unloaded, rather than hourly. The piece rate failed to meet the minimum hourly pay rates required under the Road Transport and Distribution Award 2010 and 2020, including for the minimum engagement hours and waiting times.

ACUG NSW and ACUG SA also failed to keep records related to casuals’ hours worked, including when hours attracted penalty rates or loadings.

Underpaid casuals worked unloading containers (in some cases with a forklift) in a warehouse after they had come off cargo vessels. The NSW workers were based mainly in the Sydney metropolitan area, and in SA primarily in suburbs between Adelaide CBD and Port Adelaide.

Underpayments occurred between July 2017 and March 2022.

A.C.U.G. (NSW) Pty Ltd has back-paid $39,702 including superannuation to 697 employees, while A.C.U.G. (SA) Pty Ltd has back-paid $63,023 including superannuation to 226 employees. Back-payments have been made in full to current employees and those former employees able to be located, with a further combined $46,546 to be paid by the entities to the unclaimed monies fund for former employees not yet found.

Individual back-payments range from $1 to $1,146 for the NSW business, and $2 to $4,239 in South Australia.

Under the EU, ACUG NSW and ACUG SA must also make a $81,000 contrition payment – $40,500 from each entity – to the Commonwealth’s Consolidated Revenue fund.

Fair Work Ombudsman Anna Booth said an EU was appropriate as the companies had cooperated with the FWO’s investigation and in response to the investigation demonstrated a strong commitment to both rectifying underpayments and implementing systems changes to ensure they are not repeated.

“Under the Enforceable Undertaking, ACUG NSW and ACUG SA have committed to implementing stringent measures to ensure all their workers are paid correctly. These measures include commissioning, at their own cost, an independent auditor to check they are appropriately meeting all that is required under workplace laws,” Ms Booth said.

Ms Booth said the matter should remind employers to ensure they meet all their obligations under any relevant award – while also paying close attention to their record-keeping.

“In this matter, the businesses applied piece rates without ensuring they met hourly rates required by law – leading to long-term breaches, staff underpayments and remediation and compliance costs,” Ms Booth said.

“I’d also remind employers that record-keeping is the bedrock of compliance. Keeping accurate records is a legal requirement, and when not done can also lead to wider breaches. We expect employers to invest the time and resources to get this right. We also have free resources to help.”

“Overall, employers need to place a high priority on having systems and processes in place that ensure employees’ full lawful entitlements are met, year-in, year-out.

Any worker can search on our website to see if the Fair Work Ombudsman is holding unpaid wages for them.

The EU also requires ACUG NSW and ACUG SA to commission workplace relations training for managers and to write to affected staff to tell them the entities have entered into an EU.

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