Sapphire Freighters slugged with $21,500 fine for back-payment breach

The Fair Work Ombudsman has secured a $21,500 penalty in the Federal Circuit Court against the operator of a long-haul trucking business that transports goods interstate.

The penalty against Sapphire Freighters Pty Ltd was imposed in response to the company failing to comply with a Compliance Notice requiring the back-payment of entitlements to a former truckie who mostly drove between Melbourne and Brisbane.

The court also made orders that Sapphire Freighters calculate and back-pay the approximately $6000 in outstanding entitlements owed to the truck driver, plus superannuation.

Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said business operators that fail to act on Compliance Notices need to be aware they can face court-imposed penalties on top of their back-payments.

“When Compliance Notices are not followed, we are prepared to take legal action to ensure hard-working employees receive their lawful entitlements,” she said.

“Any employees with concerns about their pay or entitlements should contact us for free advice and assistance.

In a written penalty judgement, Judge Patrizia Mercuri said: “There is no evidence of any contrition, corrective action or cooperation with the authorities in this case. Quite the contrary.

“There is also a strong need for general deterrence particularly in the Road Freight Transport industry which has significant rates of non-compliance with workplace laws.

The Fair Work Ombudsman investigated after the company failed to cooperate with the regulator after a request for assistance was received from the truck driver who had worked at Sapphire Freighters between December 2016 and January 2018.

A Fair Work Inspector issued the Compliance Notice in December 2019 after forming a belief that the company throughout the driver’s employment, paid a rate of pay per kilometre that was less than required under the Road Transport (Long Distance Operations) Award 2010, and failed to pay an allowance to compensate the employee for taking rest breaks away from home.

The regulator also alleged in the Compliance Notice that Sapphire Freighters breached the Fair Work Act by failing to pay out accrued annual leave on termination of the driver’s employment.

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