The Fair Work Ombudsman has commenced legal action against a fruit farmer in northern Victoria for allegedly underpaying two Malaysian fruit pickers more than $13,000 and providing false and misleading records to Fair Work inspectors.
Facing the Federal Circuit Court is Chris Zucco and his company Zucco Farming Pty Ltd, which operates a stone fruit farm at Woorinen, near Swan Hill.
The two Malaysian workers – a man aged in his early 20s and his father-in-law – were in Australia on bridging visas when they were allegedly underpaid.
After receiving requests for assistance from the two workers, the Fair Work Ombudsman investigated the Zucco Farming properties. Fair Work Ombudsman inspectors found the company had allegedly paid the two workers flat rates of between $15.41 and $16.77 for all hours worked to pick fruit and perform pruning, packing and cleaning duties.
Under the Horticulture Award 2010 at the time, the workers were entitled to minimum ordinary rates, including casual loading, of $21.61 for all hours, except for public holidays when they were entitled to $38.90 per hour.
In total, the two workers were allegedly underpaid a total of $13,529 between August 2015 and March 2016. The company has not rectified any of the alleged underpayments.