Travel Agents

Flight Centre’s laywers hit back at ex-employees over short break claims

Lawyers representing Flight Centre have responded to allegations that the travel giant underpaid employees and failed to give them adequate breaks, saying it is not the employer’s job to “stand over” workers.

The claims are 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.

On Tuesday, Skye Broad, who served as a Flight Centre team leader on the Gold Coast and served as a witness for the company, said staff often took shorter breaks of 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.

Ex-staff members said it was common for workers to only take half of their allotted one hour break, and the union has also alleged the company failed to provide an additional two 10-minute paid breaks to four of the five claimants, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.

On Wednesday, a further 10 current and former Flight Centre employees have come forward against Flight Centre to speak out about allegations of underpayment and inadequate processes for providing breaks.

Christopher Murdoch, QC argued on behalf of Flight Centre that the breaks were simply provided in the award and that “the words don’t say breaks must be taken”, and said to make employers “stand over” workers would be a much more “dogmatic” approach.

Murdoch also said four former staff members had not given sufficient evidence that they did not take the breaks.

However, the union argued that it may be difficult in a retail sales environment, a more formal process for allocating breaks could have been established.

The union is calling for an audit of the companies broader staff base within 30 days, suggesting thousands of employees were impacted by Flight Centre’s alleged system.

However, Murdock said the court did not have the power to make such an “unacceptable” order, which would not be practical given the size of the company.

The trial is expected to end today, with judge Michael Jarrett to hand down his ruling sometime next year.


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