Fair Work Commission decision opens door recovery of millions in unpaid wages for FIFO workers

The ETU WA Branch will now pursue a number of resource companies for millions of dollars in unpaid termination payments, following a landmark decision by 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 swing, just prior to them commencing one week of entitled recreation leave.

Kentz Australia reduced the termination payout to each worker by a week, by 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.

The Commission has ordered Kentz Australia to pay the full period of notice worth over $1 million to the workers.

ETU WA Branch Secretary, Les McLaughlan said the case has set a significant precedent for FIFO workers who had been terminated under similar circumstances in Western Australia on the Gorgon and Roy Hill projects.

“This victory will not only see these 150 electricians receive additional payment, but it now opens the door for thousands of other FIFO workers who have been denied notice pay in breach of minimum conditions on these resource projects in WA,” Mr McLaughlan said.

“The FWC’s decision puts resource companies and their contractors on notice that they can’t disregard the legal entitlements of FIFO workers.

“Rest and recreation leave is a hard-earned entitlement, and the purpose of a notice period is to give workers the chance to look for a new job.

“Thousands of WA employees have been denied this right, and have had thousands of dollars stripped from their pay packets at the very time they need it the most.”

Mr McLaughlan said as a result of this legal precedent, the ETU would now pursue claims for other members who had been terminated under similar circumstances in WA.

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