Tourism empire Hamilton Island Enterprises has been accused of censoring news alleging its resort staff had been underpaid after footage emerged of a corporate office employee whisking away stacks of newspapers - ordinarily collected by hotel porters - to Island headquarters.

The footage, obtained by the newspaper, shows a personal assistant to Island chief executive officer Glenn Bourke loading bags of The Courier-Mail newspaper into a corporate golf buggy on Saturday - the day a critical report on its pay problems was published.

Staff had spoken out in the article about claims they worked excessive unpaid overtime for years at Hamilton Island - owned by the billionaire Oatley family of Sydney to Hobart yacht racing fame - were routinely working up to 60 hours or more a week for no extra pay, and were short-changed in back-payments recently paid by the multimillion-dollar operator.

 

A personal assistant to the Hamilton Island chief executive appears to load bags of The Courier-Mail newspaper into a corporate golf buggy on Saturday – the day a critical report on its pay problems was published. Picture: Supplied
A personal assistant to the Hamilton Island chief executive appears to load bags of The Courier-Mail newspaper into a corporate golf buggy on Saturday – the day a critical report on its pay problems was published. Picture: Supplied

 

Island staff have alleged that the Saturday edition, which featured the article titled: "Pay issues rife," was not available for hotel guests during rush hour at breakfast as they normally would be, essentially keeping guests and some staff in the dark about the underpayment claims.

A HIE spokesman yesterday confirmed the newspaper was "collected for the executive office," but denied the censorship claims, saying the newspaper was "distributed as normal throughout all hotels and resorts."

"It is incorrect to say The Courier-Mail was not distributed to guests," she said.

She said the newspaper was also available for sale on the Island on Saturday.

Former HIE employees have told the newspaper it was highly unusual for the morning newspaper delivery to be collected by executive office from the boat.

Complimentary newspapers would ordinarily be collected by hotel porters, who had arrived to meet the boat on Saturday.

The newspapers would then be taken to the hotels for guests coming down from their rooms for breakfast to collect or in the lobby.

As revealed last week in The Courier-Mail, Mr Bourke addressed Island staff about a Fair Work Commission application by an employee to terminate its 2009 WorkChoices-era collective agreement, warning it would "go broke in a heartbeat" if forced to pay penalty rates under the modern award.

 

Hamilton Island CEO Glenn Bourke. Picture: Lachie Millard
Hamilton Island CEO Glenn Bourke. Picture: Lachie Millard

 

Mr Bourke warned that if award rates came in, HIE would change their employees' hours to avoid paying penalty rates of up to 200 per cent and bring in extra workers.

Staff are currently paid at a rate above the minimum base rate of pay in the relevant award, but receive no extra for weekend, night work and public holidays, and a lesser overtime rate than that set by the award.

Some staff allege they are hundreds of dollars worse off a week under the collective agreement when factoring in the amount of overtime, night and weekend shifts.

Mr Bourke declined to comment last week, but a HIE spokeswoman said it paid "well above" award minimum base pay rates to compensate for penalty rates, did not consider its collective agreement to be exploitative and "strenuously denies any accusation of threatening our employees" in the Island information sessions.

The Island has launched a pay review and began back-paying staff thousands of dollars each amid a Fair Work Ombudsman investigation into the underpayment claims.

Originally published as Secret footage: Staff accuse Hamilton Island of hiding news of 'underpayment'



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