Me­dia com­pany fined and or­dered to pay staff

Balonne Beacon - - NEWS - Madura Mccor­mack

A RE­GIONAL Queens­land me­dia com­pany, which cov­ered ar­eas in­clud­ing the Mara­noa and Charleville, 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 has 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.

❝sat­is­fied Iam that there was an el­e­ment of ex­ploita­tion in­volved with young em­ploy­ees. — Judge Tony Young

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