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Date: 12/6/2020

A Victorian finance company is being taken to court after a senior manager’s salary was slashed by more than 80 per cent amid the COVID-19 crisis.

Maurice Blackburn has launched the landmark test case against Mildura Finance, a subsidiary of Platform Financial Services, and its CEO Brad Crinion on behalf of Mark Cornell.

Mr Cornell has worked for Mildura Finance since 2003, rising to a manager position with an annual salary of $203,650.

The law firm claims Mr Cornell’s salary was slashed in April to $40,000 – equivalent to the JobKeeper payment – despite the division he worked for remaining ‘busy and profitable’.

His hours were also reduced to 18 per week.

According to a statement of claim filed in Federal Court on June 3, Mr Cornell was told by Mr Crinion staff would ‘continue to work the required hours to complete their relevant workloads’.

In the same phone call, Mr Crinion told Mr Cornell ‘all employees of Mildura Finance were required to go onto JobKeeper’.

‘With the way things are moving at the moment, the legal industry is changing every day, who knows what’s right and what’s wrong? We’re not required to put anything in writing,’ Mr Crinion also allegedly said during the phone call.

Mr Cornell was told he would be stood down without pay until he filled in a JobKeeper form, according to the court documents.

Maurice Blackburn alleges Mildura Finance has breached the Fair Work Act and breached Mr Cornell’s employment contract by not consulting with him or giving him at least three days’ notice of its decision.

They also claim the company ‘made it impossible for Mr Cornell to fulfil his obligations to his clients at a particularly busy time for the business’.

The JobKeeper scheme, where workers receive a fortnightly payment of $1500 through their employer, was announced by the federal government on March 30.

To be eligible, a for-profit company’s turnover must have fallen by at least 30 per cent.

Mr Cornell said no information was provided to him proving a decline in turnover.

He ceased employment with Mildura Finance on May 6. 

He was not paid entitlements when he left the company.

‘The manner in which Mr Cornell was treated has caused considerable distress to both him and his wife,’ Maurice Blackburn principal John Bornstein said on Thursday.

‘He is seeking penalties and compensation for breaches of the Fair Work Act and damages for breach of contract, payment.’

The court will decide whether directions that were given to Mr Cornell were lawful.

‘In this case, the Federal Court will be asked to adjudicate on the requirements that an employer must meet to qualify for JobKeeper and whether lawful directions were given to employees,’ Mr Bornstein said.

Platform Financial Services has been contacted for comment.