Manufacturing News

$1 million win for underpaid workers as company forced to pay up

A plastic packaging company has been forced to hand over more than $1 million to workers after it was revealed the company had breached award pay rates and conditions.

Sunrise Plastics was first investigated by the AMWU in June last year after the AMWU’s National Organising Unit first gained access to the factory in outer eastern Melbourne.

AMWU organiser Robert Nguyen said it was soon revealed that workers were  incorrectly employed as casuals and paid a flat hourly $15.50 rate for years, with no overtime, penalty rates or meal allowances.

The union reports that one employee at Sunrise Plastics has been reimbursed more than $250,000 to make up for the years of underpayment as a casual worker, while other employees are expected to receive up to $100,000 before tax.

Nguyen said that while most workers were Australian citizens, language barriers meant some workers had little idea of their rights and felt intimidated.

“Most of these new members have lived in Australia for some time but some use English as a second language which meant they had little knowledge of their workplace rights, and being fearful for their job, they were too scared to speak up,” he said.

Organising unit coordinator Paul Chirgwin claims Sunrise Plastics was the “tip of the iceberg” and estimated about 40 per cent of non-unionised companies the unit checked on were underpaying employees.

“A lot are ignorant of their obligations as employers, but then a lot use the language barrier breakdown to cynically take advantage of their workers,” he said.

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