Ex-Hamilton Island staff: ‘Work 110 hours, get paid for 70’

Former workers at Hamilton Island's high-end resorts have spoken out about claims of clocking up huge unpaid overtime and having to battle to claw back their full entitlements.

One ex-employee, who asked not to be named as he remained in the industry, said the pay issues stretched back years, with staff working up to 20 hours unpaid overtime a week.

He said in the worst example, he worked 110 hours in a week during the opening of a restaurant but was paid for about 70 hours.

It was standard for staff to be rostered for a 45-hour week but actually work about 55 hours without any overtime pay, he claimed.

Former staff have spoken to The Courier-Mail about their time working for Hamilton Island Enterprises - owned by the billion-dollar yacht racing Oatley family - after the newspaper revealed it was under investigation and in the midst of a Fair Work Commission pay case.

HIE has begun back-paying staff amid the Fair Work Ombudsman investigation into claims of underpayments.

It is also facing an application in the Commission by an employee to terminate its 2009 WorkChoices-era collective agreement, which staff allege left them worse off than the modern award by stripping them of overtime rates and penalty rates of up to double the hourly pay.

A HIE spokeswoman said it was reviewing all employees' working hours as part of a salary reconciliation process and was consulting with the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Former employee Isaac Bengtsson told the newspaper he was back-paid last year after flagging he was being paid under the 2009 collective agreement, when as a resort duty manager, he should have been paid under the modern award.

Former Hamilton Island employee Isaac Bengtsson. Picture Supplied
Former Hamilton Island employee Isaac Bengtsson. Picture Supplied

But he believes he was short-changed, with HIE backpaying him at a lower classification to the manager pay level under the award, despite his role managing the luxurious Qualia resort.

Mr Bengtsson said his pay slip showed his job description as a resort duty manager and his roles included managing the resort, training staff and responding to day-to-day issues.

But he said HIE argued the manager pay grade did not apply because he had a manager higher up the line.

"Really, the full effects weren't compensated for or weren't really recognised," he said.

He was concerned HIE could be similarly classifying staff beneath their pay grade under the award, skewing the debate around whether its 2009 collective agreement should be scrapped.

HIE is arguing that 80 per cent of staff were better off under the collective agreement and that it pays above-award minimum base pay rates to compensate for the loss of penalty rates.

But Mr Bengtsson said frontline food and beverage workers on the island were worse off when factoring in the amount of overtime, weekend, night and public holiday shifts.

"You are always working weekends, you are always working public holidays, you are working until 11 o'clock at night and there's no overtime or compensation for that, so no, the collective agreement isn't fair," he said.

The luxurious Qualia accommodation on Hamilton Island. Supplied
The luxurious Qualia accommodation on Hamilton Island. Supplied

Misclassifying staff could "definitely manipulate the examples" given by HIE to staff to paint a brighter picture of life under HIE's collective agreement compared to the award, he claimed.

A HIE spokeswoman said the examples shared with staff during recent information sessions were "fair representative examples of typical work patterns of employees."

Mr Bengtsson said many staff were also in the dark about the detail of the island's 2009 collective agreement, under which staff are not paid penalty rates.

"I think a lot of the staff aren't informed properly," he said.

"They are really young, they come to the island, they are sold this dream on the island, and when you get there you are given a bunch of contracts to sign.

"(HIE) don't walk you through the collective agreement. It's not there for you to read when you are there to sign up.

"By the time you get to the island you have already spent thousands of dollars on relocation.

"You have already moved your life around, you are kind of just going to do whatever you are told."

Originally published as Ex-Hamilton Island staff reveal: 'Work 110 hours, get paid for 70'