“This was my first proper job and I trusted (they) were doing the right thing by me and paying me the minimum entitlements."
The iconic surf giant Billabong, although now cut to a rump of its former self, has been “exposed as a penalty rates dodger” according to a story in prestigious trade journal, the Australian Financial Review.
In a David and Goliath play, a teenage employee at an Adelaide surf shop owned by Billabong started asking questions why she wasn’t getting paid the usual penalty rates for working weekends, nights or public holidays.
What Sarah Strybos, who is nineteen, didn’t know what that for the past eight years Billabong had an agreement with the Fair Work Commission that allowed it to legally pay its workers less than the award minimum.
The agreement meant Billabong legally stiffed workers by up to ten bucks an hour.
“This was my first proper job and I trusted that Surf Dive n Ski (owned by Billabong) was doing the right thing by me and paying me the minimum entitlements,” Strybos told AFR.
“I was shocked to find out that even though I wasn’t being paid penalty rates or annual leave loading, what my employer was paying me was technically legal. They knew the agreement was disadvantaging me and they didn’t care – and that was really disappointing.”
An award, if you’re outside Australia, is a legally mandated rate for different sorts of jobs, levels inside those jobs etc. Like the absolute…minimum… you can pay an employee. Smart businesses usually pay a little extra to get talent although in the retail and hospitality game, employees come and go so it ain’t so crucial.
But, here and there, and usually whenever there’s a conservative government in power, loopholes are created.
If a biz can prove that an employee won’t be worse off under their rate, maybe they juice the usual hourly amount up a little, under what’s called a workplace agreement.
Anyway, with the help of her union, Strybos applied to have the agreement terminated.
Before it went to court, Billabong, which now belongs to US-based Authentic Group, “decided to increase employees’ pay in line with the award and…ti later conceded to the FWC (Fair Work Court) that the continued operation of the agreement would be “unfair for the employees covered by it”.