Five ex-Flight Centre staffers have finally got their chance to take on the ASX-listed company in court over alleged underpayment.
The legal action, which was launched by trade union Together Queensland in April last year, claims Flight Centre is guilty of systematic underpayment over a six-year period and owes the five former employees approximately $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.
Grace Barrett, who used to be employed by Flight Centre in Townsville, claimed the events, which often included some sort of awards ceremony, were deemed “mandatory”, while Ruby O’Connor, who worked for Flight Centre’s Warringah Mall store in Sydney, said they occasionally turned into staff training sessions.
However, ABC News reported that Minter Ellison’s April Freeman, who was defending Flight Centre in court, questioned O’Connor on whether the events were seen more as “social gatherings” and suggested that she “enjoyed them and wanted to go to them”.
“Sometimes, but not always,” O’Connor said.
The court also heard that staff at Flight Centre usually worked past the end of their shifts without being remunerated.
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.