'Unfair' council told to pay $83,000 to disabled worker
THE Toowoomba Regional Council must pay $83,000 to a former dump worker with severe intellectual disabilities who was underpaid for more than four years.
After a third failed bid to avoid the payout figure, the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission ruled the council must pay former tip master Clynton Lawrance the sum within 28 days from the date the decision was handed down, December 22.
Commissioner Graeme John Neate ruled the council underpaid Mr Lawrance during his tenure as Meringandan West tip master because of an "unfair" contract from March 15, 2008, and September 30, 2012.
Commissioner Neate found Mr Lawrance worked 52 weeks a year performing various duties including opening and closing the tip and working weekends without penalty rates.
He ruled the contract between Mr Lawrance and the council during that time was unfair, having progressed from another contract he entered into in 1993 with the then Rosalie Shire Council which afforded him scavenging rights at the Glencoe and Meringandan West tips.
In 1998, he earned $20 a day under a new contract with RSC and after council amalgamations in 2008, Mr Lawrance was kept on at Meringandan West tip with the requirement he work five days every week each year.
"This effectively required him (or a person acting on his behalf) to work 39.5 hours each week every week of the year," Commissioner Neate said.
Mr Lawrance was required to collect payments for rubbish disposals, keep written records to be provided to the council and record vehicle numbers entering the site, among other duties.
In a number of reviews, he was judged to be a model worker who performed the duties of his contract. But during hearings in September this year, the council argued his disabilities interfered with his duties.
He ruled the contract between Mr Lawrance and the council was unfair, and referred to two previous decisions which had ruled in Mr Lawrance's favour since litigation started in 2012.
"I have concluded that the unfair contract was a product of the relative bargaining positions of the parties," Commissioner Neate said.
"But the contract was unfair because of what it contained, not simply because the parties were in unequal positions when they entered into it.
"The nature and duration of the work undertaken in accordance with the contract was not inherently unfair, but Mr Lawrance was inadequately remunerated for that work.
"In other words, he was not properly compensated for the work he performed. That conclusion provides the basis on which the Commission as presently constituted must proceed."