The ABCC has this week secured more than $46,000 in penalties and legal costs against West Australian company Big Li Ceiling Pty Ltd and its director Yiting Li.
The ABCC commenced court action against the company in September 2018 following its repeated failure to cooperate in a wages and entitlements investigation.
The Federal Circuit Court found the company failed to comply with two Notices to Produce (NTP) records and documents of its workers and subcontractors during a wages and entitlements audit.
When delivering the judgment Judge Street said:
“The Respondents have deliberately ignored their legal obligation to comply with both the first and second Notices. Their deliberate and flagrant disregard of the NTP’s prevented effective enforcement and investigation of the FW Act.”
The Court imposed the following penalties that were 90 percent of the maximum penalty:
- Big Li Ceiling Pty Ltd pay a civil penalty of $18,900.00 to the Commonwealth within 28 days.
- Director Yiting Li pay a civil penalty of $3,780.00 to the Commonwealth within 28 days.
Both respondents pay the ABCC’s legal costs in the sum of $24,284.72.
The Court delivered its decision after considering the ABCC penalty submissions and noting there was no appearance by either respondent.
Judge Street held:
“The purpose of the NTP’s is to provide the ABCC with an effective means for investigating and enforcing compliance with minimum standards and applicable industrial instruments.
"The Respondents deliberate choice not to comply with the statutory notices undermines their efficacy as an enforcement tool and, consequently, the ABCC’s ability to effectively investigate and enforce compliance with the FW Act.”
So far this financial year, the ABCC has recovered $604,000 in wages and entitlements for workers. This takes the total figure of money recovered for workers 2 December 2016 to $1.72 million.
Quotes attributable to ABCC Commissioner, Stephen McBurney:
“The failure by the company and its director to comply with statutory notices issued by an ABCC Inspector is a serious contravention.
“It has hampered the wages and entitlements audit from progressing. The gravity of the conduct is reflected in the significant penalties imposed by the Court.
“My Agency is committed to recovering wages for underpaid workers. We will continue to litigate when respondents such as Big Li Ceiling and its director, Yiting Li, refuse or fail to comply with lawful requirements to produce documents.
“They chose to ignore the regulator and have paid an appropriate price for that decision.”
Background to the Big Li Ceiling Case
As part of the ABCC’s audit, officers from the agency formally required records relating to the company’s workers on 24 August 2017.
In a statement of claim filed in the Federal Circuit Court in Perth at the time, the ABCC alleged:
- On 24 August 2017, the ABCC required that Big Li Ceiling provide employee records and documents that included timesheets, attendance records and payslips. The company failed to comply with this requirement.
- On 26 August 2017, Mr Li contacted the ABCC indicating that he would comply with the requirement from 24 August. The documents and records were not produced by 8 September 2017.
- On 2 October 2017, the ABCC again required Big Li Ceilings to provide further records and documents including records and documents of subcontractors engaged by Big Li. The company and its director failed to comply with the requirement.
The ABCC alleged the conduct contravened Sections 77(3) of the Building and Construction Industry (Improving Productivity) Act 2016 (BCIIP Act).