Workplace Ombudsman to pay a visit to Sydney Fish Markets today as part of focus on food services sector

Posted by Editorial on 18th February 2009

A dozen Federal workplace inspectors will converge on the Sydney Fish Markets at Pyrmont today to ensure workers are being paid properly.

The Federal Workplace Ombudsman advised that employers will be randomly audited as part of its national campaign targeting the food services sector.

Inspectors are checking on almost 1000 businesses around Australia, including retail and wholesale poultry and seafood suppliers, grocers, smallgoods stores, bakeries, butchers, dairy producers, coffee shops and take-away food outlets.

Workplace Ombudsman NSW State Director, Ross Drysdale, said employers at the Fish Market found to be underpaying staff or breaching other workplace laws will initially be asked to rectify the issue voluntarily. However, he signalled that legal action would be considered against any employer found to be blatantly abusing the law, with maximum penalties of $33,000 per breach.

Mr Drysdale added that complaints coming into the Workplace Ombudsman suggested the food services industry warranted attention, particularly given the number of vulnerable workers it employed. Despite this, he reported that the decision to target the Fish Markets was an operational one made by the NSW inspectorate, rather than based on any tip-off that employers were not complying with workplace laws.

The Workplace Ombudsman conducts about 5000 targeted audits each year in addition to investigating some 25,000 complaints.