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The Fair Work Ombudsman has commenced litigation in the Federal Court against Workforce Solutions (QLD) Pty Ltd and its general manager Mathew Micallef.

It is alleged that Workforce Solutions supplied 10 workers to perform work for three of its clients’ businesses but paid the workers nothing on the basis that it was ‘work experience’.

It is alleged that despite paying the workers nothing, Workforce Solutions charged its clients $15 for each hour worked by each of the workers.

The 10 workers were allegedly entitled to have been paid a total of $14,376, with the largest alleged individual underpayment being $4,525.

The Fair Work Ombudsman investigated the matter after receiving requests for assistance from the workers.

It is alleged Workforce Solutions initially invited the workers to apply for paid jobs via website advertisements, then told them they had been unsuccessful due to an absence of industry experience or a job reference.

It is alleged Workforce Solutions then offered the workers the opportunity to gain experience and a reference through unpaid work.

It is alleged the 10 workers variously performed low-skilled manual work at three businesses in the warehousing and manufacturing sectors in Brisbane.

Workforce Solutions faces penalties of up to $54,000 per contravention, while Mr Micallef faces penalties of up to $10,800 per contravention.

Last year, the Fair Work Ombudsman began court action against a fashion industry start-up that appeared on the reality show ‘Shark Tank’ for allegedly running an unlawful unpaid internship program and underpaying three workers more than $40,000.

In 2016, Fair Work Ombudsman litigation resulted in the Federal Circuit Court imposing $272,850 in penalties against Sydney-based media company AIMG BQ Pty Ltd to send a “serious message” not to disguise employment relationships as unpaid internships.

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