National racket exploiting casual workers exposed, employee to be reinstated and compensated.
A complex web of operations designed to exploit workers was exposed yesterday by the National Union of Workers. Mr Pedro Vannea had been working for some time as a poultry boner at Baiada in South Australia, but due to the contracting model used by the business, Pedro had been denied his basic rights.
Pedro was contracted by Royal Bay International, who themselves were contracted by Baiada. Royal Bay International arranged for an accountant to set Pedro up with an ABN and a company called “Pedro Vannea Pty Ltd”, which at some stage was then transformed into a family trust. Pedro had little knowledge of why this was occurring, instead trusting his accountant.
This confusing contracting arrangement was designed to take advantage of Pedro’s limited English skills, underpay him, and attempt to shift workplace and financial risk onto him. Pedro was then dismissed by Royal Bay International via a text message in December 2013.
Through a widespread practice of contracting, it is clear that Baiada and Royal Bay have sought to avoid an employment relationship, attempting to shirk their responsibilities to Pedro. This practice occurs at Baiada sites across Australia.
A complex web of operations designed to exploit workers was exposed yesterday by the National Union of Workers.
The NUW made an unfair dismissal application on Pedro’s behalf. The decision today confirms that poultry boners are in fact employees and has seen Pedro awarded reinstatement and compensation.
Fair Work Commission Senior Deputy President O’Callaghan noted in the decision that “Royal Bay misrepresented the very nature of the relationship it had with Mr Vannea”, highlighting the deliberate attempt by the business to treat workers unfairly. SDP O’Callaghan also stated that this decision could have further implications for Baiada.
This case casts a spotlight on sham contracting arrangements. The decision is likely to have ramifications for workers at Baiada sites across the country, who are engaged in similar arrangements. It is not a one-off case. This decision is a clear warning to companies that shift risk to do so at their own peril. Workers will organize and have the law behind them in demanding fair conditions and standing up for their rights in situations such as these.
Allegations of sham contracting and underpayment of workers have been made recently in relation to Baiada’s NSW operations, and health and safety issues have been raised in relation to the company’s Laverton North site, where a worker was decapitated in 2010. Read more