A PETROL company operating three service stations in the Riverina has admitted to underpaying employees thousands of dollars as the firm prepares to learn its fate in court.
In a statement of agreed facts tendered to the Federal Circuit Court, Westside Petroleum Retail and three of its management staff admitted to underpaying 22 employees at 12 regional stations a total of $62,393 between 2015 and 2016.
The court document states that the three management staff members were aware of the company paying employees a net rate of just $18 per hour.
Two members were aware that there were "no additional amounts for penalties or overtime" being paid and that the payments were "insufficient to meet the minimum entitlements required to be paid under the award".
The admission comes after Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker started court proceedings in March. Ms Parker has made no allegations against any franchisee-run stations.
In the Riverina, the Westside Petroleum-operated stations are in Wagga, Tolland and Temora.
Under the relevantaward,adult workers are entitled to gross hourly rates of $25.05 on weekdays, $32.56 on weekends and public holidays, and an additional $14.21 for overtime hours.
The firm and management have agreed to back pay all employees in full.
Sally McManus, secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, said being paid fairly is one of the most fundamental rights of working people.
"In some sectors, wage theft has become a business model," she said.
Ms McManus also said laws need to be reformed "so that business owners who steal wages face both harsh penalties and a high prospect of being caught".
"We also need to make it easier for working people to pursue stolen wages through the Fair Work Commission rather than forcing people into a long, expensive and technical court process," she said.
Westside has also been ordered to provide and display information about the Fair Work Act and the relevant award to existing and new franchisees for a two-year period.
If convicted in September, the company faces penalties of up to $54,000 per contravention and each of the three management staff face penalties of up to $10,800 per contravention.
Rostron Carlyle Rojas, the law firm representing Westside Petroleum, has not responded to media queries.