Businessman Leigh Alan Jorgensen claimed he never employed the backpackers at his Cairns-based Trek North Tours, the Fair Work Ombudsman says.
The watchdog launched legal action against Mr Jorgensen and his company on Thursday.
It’s alleged five backpackers, aged between 23 and 32, were unpaid almost $30,000 in total when they worked for Trek North Tours between August last year and April this year.
They were in Australia on 417 working holiday visas from Hong Kong, The Netherlands, Italy and Taiwan.
After they lodged complaints earlier this year, inspectors allegedly found they were paid flat rates of between $10 and $16.37 an hour – in some cases, they weren’t paid at all.
Under the award, they should have been paid at least $17.98 for normal hours and up to $37.56 an hour for penalty shifts.
Mr Jorgensen allegedly refused to cooperate with the Fair Work Ombudsman’s investigation, telling inspectors “you will not get a cent” and claiming he never employed the backpackers at all.
Ombudsman Natalie James said inspectors tried to resolve the matter outside court, but were unable to.
“We were left with no option but to commence this legal action to recover the money allegedly owing to these workers,” Ms James said.
A directions hearing is listed for December 15 in the Federal Circuit Court in Brisbane.
Written by Thomas Wheeler