Travel Agents

Flight Centre benefitted financially from unpaid “buzz nights”, court hears

Flight Centre may have been benefiting financially from so-called “buzz nights” that saw employees receive unpaid training.

The information has emerged as part of a court case launched by trade union Together Queensland on behalf of five ex-Flight Centre staffers over alleged underpayment to the tune of $250,000.

The case was launched by Together Queensland, based on the advice of Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, which investigated the employee records of the five ex-Flight Centre employees.

The investigation found that Flight Centre failed to pay minimum wages, penalty and overtime rates, annual leave and leave loading at the correct rate to the five employees who have come forward, and did not provide the correct rest and meal breaks, according to Together Queensland.

The focus of the testimony from the former Flight Centre staffers in the Federal Circuit Court in Brisbane yesterday was on monthly functions that the company’s employees were expected to attend, according to ABC News.

Despite being served free food and booze at these so-called “buzz nights”, staff weren’t being paid to attend these evening shindigs that could end up carrying on for up to three hours.

On Tuesday, two of the staffers told the court Flight Centre was benefiting financially from suppliers who made presentations at the “mandatory” events, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.

Former team leader Anthony Seller told the court that wholesalers usually had the expectation they could speak at “buzz nights” after contributing money as sponsors.

The Australian reported that it was also alleged that staff are required to greet customers within seconds of entering the store, give a quote within an hour and answer the phone within three rings.

In regards to the claims of unpaid overtime, Skye Broad, who served as a Flight Centre team leader on the Gold Coast and served as a witness for the company, said there was a preference to complete sales while clients were in store.

“I requested staff have a work-life balance, but if they were working on a commission sale, it would be in their interest to stay back,” Broad said, according to The Australian.

She also said that staff often took shorter breaks, taking half an hour instead of an hour, so they could make more commission.

“The longer their breaks, the less commission they could earn,” she said.

Flight Centre’s lawyers argued that staff staying back to finish last-minute sales or quotes was voluntary and for their own financial benefit because of their commissions.

Troy Dorosz, who used to work at two Gold Coast agencies under the Flight Centre brand, claims he usually didn’t finish work until 7pm so he could hit his target and avoid having disgruntled customers, according to ABC News.

“If I was to leave work, I ran the risk of losing the last seat or ticket prices going up – you have to hit targets or you don’t have a job,” he said.

Flight Centre’s argument is that it has top-up payments for employees whose earnings don’t meet the award level with their retainer and commission.

“It’s not appropriate for us to comment in detail about an ongoing court case,” a spokesperson for the company told Travel Weekly.

“Flight Centre believes the claims for compensation in these proceedings, which are being brought by five former employees, are not sustainable and is defending the matter.

“This matter relates to Flight Centre’s past wage model prior to our EBA being rolled out in October 2019, so it does not impact our current wage model.”

It’s expected that the court trial will run until Thursday, with judge Michael Jarrett to hand down his ruling sometime next year.

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