Justice for workers underpaid by $300,000
A REGIONAL Queensland media company, which covered areas including the Whitsundays, has been fined for underpaying staff by $300,000.
Young journalists and production staff, some in their early 20s and recruited straight out of university, were frequently underpaid or not paid at all while working for Touchpoint Media Pty Ltd, the Fair Work Ombudsman had found.
The Brisbane-based company, run by director Laurence Bernard Ward, has been fined a total of $264,924 by the Federal Circuit Court for underpaying staff after legal action was lodged.
Judge Tony Young also ruled Touchpoint Media Pty Ltd and Mr Ward must back-pay the 23 staff a total of $305,780 for underpayments that occurred between January 2016 and June 2016.
Four workers were underpaid more than $30,000 each, with the largest underpayment of wages and entitlements totalling $48,217.
The company's news websites, "Our Town plus more", covered Charters Towers, Charleville, Goondiwindi, Longreach, Maranoa, Redland and the Whitsundays.
Judge Young told the court there was some evidence Touchpoint purposefully sought out young vulnerable journalists.
"I am satisfied that there was an element of exploitation involved with young employees that would have been less likely to occur with older or more experienced employees," he said. "As such, I am satisfied that the experience of employment by Touchpoint, and the consequent serious underpayment of many employees, was a bitter and humiliating experience."
In addition to the penalties and back-pay order, Judge Young ordered the company to commission an external audit of its compliance and report the results to the Fair Work Ombudsman.