Australia’s Fair Work Ombudsman has commenced legal action against Norwegian shipping company Transpetrol TM, alleging it underpaid dozens of foreign crew while they were working in Australian waters.
The company is facing the Federal Court in Sydney. The Fair Work Ombudsman alleges the company underpaid 61 crew a total of $255,042 when they were working on the MT Turmoil oil tanker in Australian waters between 2013 and 2015.
The crew were mostly Indian and Filipino nationals and included a number of young workers aged as young as 21.
The oil tanker conducted a series of coastal trading voyages in Australian territorial waters between ports in Perth, Adelaide, Burnie, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Darwin and the island of Groote Eylandt in the Gulf of Carpentaria, under charter by two Australian companies, BP Australia and Caltex.
No allegations are made against BP Australia or Caltex.
Transpetrol allegedly paid the foreign crew rates that were the equivalent of as little as $1.25 per hour in relation to base rates, in addition to industry specific allowances and overtime amounts.
Transpetrol was allegedly obligated to pay most of the crew minimum hourly rates of between $15.95 and $30.66 and overtime rates of between $19.94 and $38.32 per hour.
Alleged individual underpayments of employees range from $374 to $10,390.
The Fair Work Ombudsman will assert in Court that the Fair Work Act extends to a temporary licensed ship for any voyages carried out under that license after two initial voyages have been completed, provided the two initial voyages were completed within the preceding 12 months.
Transpetrol faces penalties of up to $51,000 per contravention. The Fair Work Ombudsman is also seeking a Court Order requiring Transpetrol to provide a maritime industry factsheet to its crew members when operating in Australian waters in future.
The news comes a day after the Fair Work Ombudsman announced it was seeking $10,800 fines for nine seafarers, five of whom were woken up at 1am and marched off the ship they were occupying in Portland, Victoria, in January 2016.
The five crewmembers were on board the Alcoa-owned MV Portland. They were woken by up to 30 security guards and intimidated into leaving the vessel they had occupied during a 60-day labor dispute after being told by Alcoa that they were to sail the vessel to Singapore, where they would be sacked.
The seafarers were no longer required, because the government had issued Alcoa a Temporary License that enabled them to use a foreign-flagged and crewed vessel as a replacement.
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