De Costi seafood accused of underpaying staff wages
A leading seafood retailer is facing court action amid allegations it underpaid past and present graveyard shift staff millions of dollars.
The Australian Workers' Union is taking seafood giant De Costi to the Federal Circuit Court, accusing the company of failing to pay proper rates to staff working early morning hours at its seafood processing facility in Western Sydney.
De Costi, a subsidiary of ASX-listed Tassal, has "categorically" denied the claims.
The union believes about 50 current workers - and hundreds of former employees - on the early shift with start times from 1am-5am have been underpaid several million dollars over the past six years.
According to the union, the staff were being denied overtime rates as they were entitled to under the Seafood Processing Award.
AWU national secretary Daniel Walton said the majority of workers were of Vietnamese, Nepalese and Pacific Islander background, many of whom had limited spoken English skills and were on temporary visas.
"We believe management has deliberately exploited a vulnerable workforce too afraid to speak up because of their precarious visa situations," he said.
"This is a blatant case of wage theft and it's deplorable. But instead of doing the right thing and owning up, Tassal are digging their heels in and doing everything they can to deny these workers their rightful wage.
"These are people that are working through the night to deliver food to tables across Australia and deserve far better.
"We are simply asking Tassal to pay these workers a fair wage to reflect the work they carry out when most of Australia is fast asleep."
Mr Walton applauded the workers who had come forward and said the union would be "backing them" in their fight for backpay.
A Tassal spokesman confirmed it was engaged in a mediation process between De Costi Seafoods and the union in relation to the allegations.
However the company denied the claims that had been raised.
"De Costi Seafoods has at all times acted transparently and in good faith with its staff and we deny any allegations to the contrary," the spokesman said.
"We strongly reject any claim that we treat our staff with anything but the utmost of respect."
"We are proud to hire staff from a broad range of backgrounds and we ensure they are supported, including providing extensive translation services to make sure nobody is left behind."
The spokesman said the company would continue to participate in the mediation "in good faith" but acknowledged the matter would progress to the Federal Court "in the event this is unsuccessful".
Originally published as De Costi seafood accused of underpaying staff wages