Restaurants and cafes drop bid to cut Sunday penalty rates

The Australian, November 17, 2017

The restaurant and cafe sector will no longer pursue cuts to Sunday penalty rates after a surprise ­announcement yesterday that it wanted to drop action in the Fair Work Commission.

United Voice welcomed the decision which was revealed by the employer body at a commission hearing.

United Voice national secretary Joanne Schofield said the commission decision to allow the sector to pursue its previous failed attempt to cut Sunday rates from 150 per cent to 125 per cent was not justified.

“Their last-minute decision to not pursue the application shows that they knew that their case to cut pay had no merit,’’ she said. “It is a relief for restaurant workers that their Sunday penalty rates are no longer under attack. It was always perverse that a booming restaurant industry was going on the attack against their workers.”

The move came as the Fair Work Ombudsman launched its first contempt of court action, ­alleging a Queensland tour operator contravened a freezing order by transferring $41,000 into a family trust without paying $30,000 owed to employees.

The Federal Circuit Court made the freezing orders against Leigh Alan Jorgensen, the owner-operator of Cairns company Trek North Tours, in 2015, preventing any dispersion of assets held by him or the company. The orders were to apply until penalties and back payments from litigation relating to the underpayment of wages were complied with.

The court had fined Trek North $55,000 and Mr Jorgensen $12,000 after the company failed to adhere to compliance notices requiring five overseas backpackers on 417 working visas be reimbursed almost $30,000 in wages and entitlements.

Neither Trek North nor Mr Jorgensen paid the amounts owed by the due date, and he told Fair Work inspectors the backpackers “would not get a cent” in back pay.

The ombudsman alleged that in August 2015 Mr Jorgensen committed contempt of court by transferring $41,035 from two company accounts into his family trust account. Mr Jorgensen has paid the penalty imposed on him, resulting in the freezing order against him being lifted.