Australia

Vic fruit, veg, flower sellers fined $243K

Several Melbourne fruit, vegetable and flower stores have been stung $243,000 for underpaying workers and failing to keep proper records.

Several fruit, vegetable and flower retailers across Melbourne have been fined $243,000 for underpaying workers and failing to keep proper records.

A & S Wholesale Fruit and Vegetables Pty Ltd, trading as Parkmore Fruit and Vege Market and Melbourne MarketPlace, was ordered to pay $200,000 in penalties by the Federal Circuit Court.

Company director Stephen Fanous and operations manager Etherah Louli, must also pay penalties of $30,000 and $13,000 respectively.

Three workers were underpaid a total $132,956 by using flat rates as low as $10 an hour from 2012-14.

The penalties also relate to non-compliant record-keeping and falsifying employment records.

Two of the workers worked at a fruit and vegetable store in Chirnside Shopping Centre, while the other worked at florist businesses in shopping centres in Fountain Gate, Parkmore and Dandenong.

Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said the significant penalties send a strong message to other employers that unlawfully low flat rates are unacceptable.

"We have no tolerance for employers who think they can choose to pay workers a flat rate of pay that undercuts a worker's minimum entitlements, or who try to hide it with unlawful "off the books' practices", she said in a statement on Monday.

She said accurate, timely record-keeping is a fundamental obligation of any employer and any false record-keeping may be the subject of court action, with increased penalties now available.

The company rectified the underpayments in full after court action commenced.

In handing down his finding on Thursday, Judge John O'Sullivan found the conduct of the company and its senior managers serious and the underpayments, "substantial".

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