21/05/2008 - 22:00

Fines for Perth companies over imposition of AWAs

21/05/2008 - 22:00

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Two Perth companies have been fined in the Perth Magistrate’s Court for pressuring employees to sign Australian Workplace Agreements, recently abolished by the federal government.

Pressure: The Perth Magistrate\'s Court found that undue pressure had been applied to employees at an IGA supermarket.

Two Perth companies have been fined in the Perth Magistrate's Court for pressuring employees to sign Australian Workplace Agreements, recently abolished by the federal government.

Ten Talents Pty Ltd and Cyberlink Pty Ltd (trading as Administrative Services) were fined $6,700 each and ordered to pay one employee $983 compensation after the court found both businesses guilty of AWA duress.

Federal Workplace Ombudsman Nicholas Wilson said court action followed an investigation by workplace inspectors who found that continued employment for existing employees of the IGA Hilton supermarket, which had been sold to Ten Talents, was conditional upon signing an AWA.

Ten Talents bought the supermarket in September 2006 and engaged human resource business Cyberlink as its agent to make the offers of employment.

"[Cyberlink] interviewed and offered employment to the existing employees of the former owner of the supermarket, on the condition that the existing employees enter into AWAs with Ten Talents," Mr Wilson said.

"Two employees refused to sign the AWAs offered and so were not employed by Ten Talents." Federal Magistrate Toni Lucev found the action of both companies contravened section 400(5) of the Workplace Relations Act 1996 by applying duress to one of the employees in connection with an AWA.

Retail Traders' Association of WA executive director, Wayne Spencer, said while AWAs had now been replaced by Individual Transitional Agreements (ITEA), he didn't believe duress was a significant issue with individualised contracts overall.

"It's my personal belief that WorkChoices has achieved much in getting this state up and running...we still have the lowest unemployment rate in Australia," Mr Spencer told WA Business News.

"Unfortunately, we only hear about the bad aspects, like what happened with Ten Talents and Cyberlink, but I'd like to know the percentage of those types of cases compared to all the AWAs ever signed.

"I reckon it's a small percentage that has manipulated the situation."

The court's decision to fine Ten Talents and Cyberlink came after Fair Employment Advocate Helen Creed released a discussion paper titled 'Vulnerable Workers: Young People' late last month.

The paper found that the retail sector employed the most vulnerable workers, with 43 per cent of Australia's youth labour market employed in retail trade.

Ms Creed said implementing ITEAs and the proposed reforms for WA, many of which replace what WorkChoices abolished, would lead to less marginalisation in the workplace.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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