Legal precedent opens door to recovery of millions in unpaid wages for terminated FIFO workers

Etu National

Unions will look to pursue major resource companies for millions of dollars in unpaid termination payments following a precedent-setting victory in the Fair Work Commission.

The Electrical Trades Union launched the case after the principal electrical contractor on the $34 billion Inpex Ichthys LNG project in the Northern Territory, Kentz Australia, made 150 fly-in fly-out workers redundant on the final day of their four-week shift, just prior to them commencing one week of recreation leave.

Kentz Australia reduced the termination payout to each worker by a week, counting the unpaid rostered leave as part of their notice period. The ETU challenged the move, arguing that it was unlawful for the company to have the notice period run concurrently with rest and recreation leave.

The FWC agreed with the union, ruling that rest and recreation was leave and that notice of termination of employment could not run concurrently with a period of leave, ordering Kentz Australia to pay more than $1 million to the workers.

ETU national legal officer Michael Wright said the case sets a significant precedent for other FIFO workers who had been terminated in similar circumstances in the NT, Western Australia and Queensland, including on the major Gorgon, Curtis Island and Roy Hill projects.

“This victory won’t just see these 150 electricians receive additional payment, it opens the door for thousands of other FIFO workers who have been been denied notice pay in breach of minimum conditions on major resource projects across Australia,” Mr Wright said.

“The ETU has launched a review of the industry and we have already identified more than 3,000 FIFO workers that have been denied more than $10 million of entitlements in the same way.
“The purpose of a notice period is to give workers the chance to get new work. These employees were denied this right, with thousands of dollars stripped from their pay packets at the very time they are most vulnerable, having lost their job.

“This decision by the FWC has put resource companies and their contractors on notice that they cannot use the unique vulnerabilities of a FIFO workforce to attack basic employment rights. The ETU is committed to bringing this practice to an end.

“As a result of this legal precedent, we expect to pursue claims for many more people in similar circumstances from around Australia.”

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