A Perth businesswoman who was last year subject to a record financial penalty arising from a Fair Work Ombudsman litigation will again face court over allegations she has continued to exploit and underpay foreign workers.
Catherine Paino-Povey was fined $57,310 last September for her involvement in the underpayment of six cleaners employed by her husband’s company, Housekeeping Pty Ltd.
The six cleaners included five overseas backpackers, three of whom spoke little English, and employed on 417 working visas. They were from Taiwan, Hong Kong, New Zealand and Ireland.
The company was further penalised $286,550 after it was found that both it and Ms Paino-Povey had been dishonest in their dealings with the FWO and stifled its investigation.
The combined penalty of $343,860 was a record for a FWO litigation and the company was also ordered to make backpayments of $22,510 to the affected staff.
Housekeeping Pty Ltd has since been deregistered and the penalty and backpayments have not been made. The FWO alleges the company’s assets were transferred to a new business owned by Ms Paino-Povey, Commercial and Residential Cleaning Group Pty Ltd.
The FWO has now instigated further legal action against Ms Paino-Povey, alleging her new company has further exploited three Chinese women also employed on 417 visas. In court documents, the FWO alleges the company underpaid the three employees a total of $13,605 between June, 2012 and April, 2013.
The FWO alleges that two employees received no payment for between two and four weeks’ work and a third employee received no payment for one weeks’ work.
A suite of workplace laws were also allegedly breached, including those relating to rostering, frequency of pay, record-keeping, meal breaks and pay-slips.
The employees allegedly were underpaid minimum hourly and overtime rates and received no payment for travel time between residences, annual or personal leave entitlements or superannuation contributions.
Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James said the matter showed the deliberate exploitation of overseas workers was not acceptable.
“The alleged conduct involved in this matter is extremely serious,” she said. “The fair Work Ombudsman will not tolerate employers trying to use legal and corporate trickery to avoid paying employee entitlements.”
Ms Paino-Povey and her husband now face being hit with further penalties of up to $10,200 per contravention while the company, Commercial and Residential Cleaning Group, faces up to $51,100 per contravention.
Numerous contraventions are alleged with the FWO seeking a court order for the company to rectify the alleged underpayments in full.