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A fruit and vegetable farming operation in Stanthorpe, Queensland, has been penalised a total of $60,000 for creating a scheme aimed at circumventing its workplace obligations.

The Federal Court found that the scheme was used to avoid paying overtime rates to three fruit packers and a forklift driver amounting to $19,000.

Judge Joan Collier imposed a $50,000 penalty against Eastern Colour Pty Ltd, SB Employments and NB Employments and a further $10,000 penalty against Eastern Colour director Louisa Baronio.

The penalties are the result of an investigation and litigation by the Fair Work Ombudsman.

The Court heard that Eastern Colour devised a labour hire scheme which effectively traded the workers between contractors when they reached 40 hours of work so that overtime payments could be avoided.

“The unfortunate fact that the respondents themselves may feel somewhat exploited by purchasers of their produce does not mean that the respondents are excused from compliance,” Judge Collier said. 

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