Deniliquin-based Downes rice Hulls underpaid drivers by $94,000, says Fair Work Ombudsman

Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James.
Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James.

A Deniliquin-based company that underpaid 16 truck drivers nearly $94,000 is back-paying the workers and overhauling its workplace practices.

Farming waste company Downes Rice Hulls Pty Ltd short-changed the workers, mainly as a result of underpaying their overtime and weekend penalty rates, the Fair Work Ombudsman said.

Downes Rice Hulls transports rice hulls in the Riverina and has depots in Leeton and Deniliquin. It formerly had one at Coleambally.

The ombudsman investigated after receiving a request for assistance from a driver who had been employed out of the Leeton depot and found the worker, aged in his 50s,had been underpaid $50,856 between 2011 and 2014.

The ombudsman conducted a wider audit and identified that similar issues had led to Downes Rice Hulls underpaying a further 15 full-time or casual workers a total of $43,138 across a three-month period from January to March last year. The company also failed to pay annual leave loading and contravened record-keeping laws.

Downes Rice Hulls has entered into an Enforceable Undertaking (EU) with the Fair Work Ombudsman, committing to rectify all underpayments within 12 months and to take a range of steps aimed at ensuring future compliance with workplace laws. It has also agreed to donate $5000 to the GetSet employment readiness program in Leeton.

Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James said the case highlights the importance of employers ensuring they are aware of their employees’ minimum entitlements.