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20 July 2016

Enforceable Undertaking with the Fair Work Ombudsman 

Ventia Utility Services Pty Limited (VUS) is a services company providing utilities and environmental services to Australian and New Caledonian industrial, government and commercial clients with its headquarters based in New South Wales.

Thiess Services Pty Ltd (Thiess Services) was a services company providing telecommunications, infrastructure and utilities services to Australian industrial, government and commercial clients. Thiess Services was sold to Ventia Pty Ltd on 31 March 2015 and subsequently changed its name to VUS. 

In 2011 Thiess Services entered into a recruitment agreement with an intermediary agent for the purpose of managing a recruitment process under which 457 Filipino visa workers (Affected Persons) were to be recruited for employment in Australia.

At the completion of the recruitment process the Affected Employees were offered and signed a binding Thiess Services employment agreement (Thiess Services Offer of Employment) and, without Thiess Services’ knowledge, a Master Employment Contract (MEC) provided by the intermediary. The MEC contained a provision that would permit Thiess Services to terminate the employment of an Affected Person, inter alia, by reason of their “engaging in trade union activities” during their employment. 

In 2015 the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) conducted an investigation of VUS. VUS co- operated at all times. The FWO determined and VUS now admits the MEC contravened the following provisions of the Fair Work Act 2009 (FW Act):

(a)   VUS engaged in adverse action contrary to section 340 of the FW Act in that, by having the  affected Persons enter into the MEC they were deprived of the rights that they possessed by virtue of their prior signing of the Employment Agreement.

(b)  VUS made false and misleading representations contrary to section 345 of the FW Act as the MEC purported to convey to the Affected Persons that they were not permitted to join a trade union and that VUS had the right to terminate their employment if they did.

VUS has entered into an Enforceable Undertaking with the FWO (available at www.fwo.gov.au) committing to ensuring compliance with Commonwealth workplace laws.

Further VUS have committed to:

(a) Formally apologise to the Affected Persons

(b) Change their labour engagement practices

(c) Implement processes to ensure future workplace relations compliance

(d) Implement a designated enquiry line

(e) Resolve any new complaints

(f) Publish website, public and workplace notices

(g) Conduct workplace relations training

(h) Make a donation to The Philippines-Australia Community Services Inc (PACSI) for the amount of $50,000

If you were engaged by Thiess Services or VUS and signed a MEC and have any concerns, you may wish to contact Melissa Nolet on +61 3 9861 8120 or melissa.nolet@ventia.com.au. Alternatively, you can contact the FWO via its website at www.fairwork.gov.au or the Infoline on 13 13 94. 

Link to the Enforceable Undertaking