News

Orchardist defends actions in court during Fair Work case

AN Applethorpe farm's advisor has defended establishing two labour hire companies to avoid paying workers more than $10,000 in overtime.

Vince Catanzaro, a Stanthorpe-based solicitor and tax agent, told the Federal Court in Brisbane that people simply were "not offered overtime" in the fruit and vegetable industry.

He said it was seasonal work and people would "voluntarily" elect to work more than 40 hours a week at the ordinary rate of pay.

Mr Catanzaro said the move avoided "unnecessary movement of workers from one property to another" during the busy season.

The Fair Work Ombudsman disagrees, arguing the Eastern Colours farm set up an illegal employment structure to transfer four farm workers from one company to another after they had each worked 40 hours in a week.

Original documents lodged with the court in 2010 alleged three packers and one fork-lift driver were denied $13,719 in overtime payments but the total underpayment could be more than $19,000 because they did not meet minimum hourly rates or pay public holiday rates.

Former employee Adela Caruso, from Stanthorpe, told the court she and her father had both worked at the farm, explaining how they each had to fill out two employment forms for two companies to she could work as many hours as she could.

When questioned, she said she did not know anything about overtime and was not informed that anyone who worked over 40 hours was entitled to claim a higher pay rate.

Barrister Geoffrey Phillips, acting for the Fair Work Ombudsman, said the Fruit and Vegetable Growers award applicable to 2005 to 2007 allegation period "entitled" workers to overtime at a higher pay rate after they had worked 40 hours.

Mr Catanzaro accepted that was true but said the current workplace agreement allowed for people to continue on the same pay rate after 38 hours which mirrored what they were doing back then.

He agreed setting up the labour hire companies was a "cost-effective" way to employ people, instead of paying a surcharge to external entities to hire staff.

"There are many commercial reasons you would structure your business that way," he said.

Mr Catanzaro said it was a "simple process" where people would work 40 hours for one company and then move over to work for a second company.

He said otherwise they would be sent away to work on another farm and a new crop of workers would have to come in to finish the job.

"This is not an unusual arrangement in the industry," he said.

"In that industry there is no overtime paid.

"In my experience, they would never receive an offer of overtime, it just doesn't exist, even though the award provides for it."

Mr Catanzaro agreed with the suggestion there were "advantages in keeping the one group in the one place for as many hours as they were needed in any given week during the season".

"There were advantages that justified the whole concept ... the concept of voluntary additional hours," he said.

John Baronio told the court he began the farm in 1988, but after leaving school aged 13 and a half and working through until age 66, he was moving towards retirement.

Mr Baronio disagreed he was winding down the farm, instead saying he had given more control to his nephews.

"I've had a heart attack and I've nearly had enough," he said.

Mr Baronio said he left the labour duties to his wife, Mr Catanzaro and other professional advisors.

He said he understood the two-company payment system worked "provided they were happy enough to voluntarily do additional hours at the same rate of pay".

The hearing continues.

Topics:  fair work australia farming federal court orchard wages workers



How to survive a bushfire in your car

IT SOUNDS like a nightmare, but it can happen.

Eight reasons to join the RFS

SPREAD across 93% of Queensland, the Rural Fire Service has about 36,000 volunteers. And you could be one of them.

What if my insurer gives me grief?

CLAIMING your insurance cover after a natural disaster can go one of two ways. It can be a breeze, or like pulling teeth.

Heatwave to continue for days as temps top 40 in some areas

Beachgoers cool down at Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast. Temperatures have hit 46 degrees Celsius in parts of outback Queensland today, with a heatwave predicted for the state's central and southern regions.(AAP Image/Dan Peled)

Outback towns scorching under the Friday afternoon sun

Police reveal gender of discovered corpse

Police are investigating the discovery of human remains at Glen Aplin.

Police reveal startling information about corpse found by public

Where to get the cheapest mangoes in Warwick

JUICY DEAL: Trish Wedlock is selling the cheapest mangoes in town.

Tis the season to gorge on mangoes.

Local Partners

Smart new app for learner drivers

A BRAND new smartphone app could make getting a licence a lot safer and easier for learner drivers across the nation.


Creekside Carols are all set to thrill Allora crowd

Chad Wilson, Sarah and Stacey Turner, Greta Barton and Jo Denny at the Allora's Creekside Carols under the Stars   



Photo Deanna Millard / Daily News

ALLORA'S Creekside Carols are on tomorrow night

Events you need to be at this week...

Warwick Volleyball Ladies grand finalists Grinners (back, from left) Lisa Bergemann, Rachel King and Allyne Waters (front) Awesome team members Emma Lowe, Lydia Wallace and Mandy Aspinall after the first season finals this year.

Touch, volleyball and cricket have major events in the next week

Mitchell Shield between Warwick and Stanthorpe

LOCAL DERBY: Stanthorpe captain Ben Staley with the Hendry Bourke Trophy for cricket supremacy between Warwick and Stanthorpe after a victory at Slade Park two years ago.

Warwick will host Stanthorpe in local derbies

Ricky Gervais announces first dates of world tour

Ricky Gervais has announced his first world tour in seven years.

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard in 'final stages' of divorce

Depp's outstanding divorce money to be paid over 15 months

Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher welcome their second child

Mila Kunis won't be naming her second child 'Hawkeye'

First look at Russell Crowe and Tom Cruise in The Mummy

Russell Crowe in a scene from the first teaser trailer for the movie The Mummy.

HOLLYWOOD heavyweights helm serious reboot of action franchise.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt: Fame is 'unhealthy'

Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Joseph Gordon-Levitt feels bad perpetuating celebrity culture

Man who played Manuel in Fawlty Towers has died, aged 86

Manuel from the comedy hit Fawlty Tours, has died aged 86

Evicted from their own land: red tape tangles up family's plans

HOME WOES: Carl Murray says his family was evicted from their own property.

Owning their own land wasn't the biggest hurdle for this family

Coast high-flyer's fight back from bankruptcy, $72m debt

Scott Juniper went from millionaire developer to declaring bankruptcy in2012, now he is back on top of his game again with new developments including this one in Coolum.

'Apocalyptic lending storm' causes financial collapse.

How your home can earn you big $$$$ this Christmas

This luxury Twin Waters home rents out over Christmas for more than $6000 a week.

Home owners earning thousands renting out their homes this Christmas

2000 jobs at multi-million dollar Ipswich project

INSIDE: Artist's impressions of the interior of the new Eastern Heights aged care precinct.

Sub-contractors needed to build $15m aged care facility

Ready to SELL your property?

Post Your Ad Here!