RECLUSIVE radio owner Bill Caralis’s Tweed Radio & Broadcasting Co was found to have underpaid journalist Brooke Whitney, and has been ordered to make a $10,000 backpayment.
The ruling was handed down this month in the NSW Chief Industrial Magistrates Court after Whitney approached the Fair Work Ombudsman for help to ensure she was paid correctly.
The ombudsman, whose office is hailing the ruling as a victory in the fight to ensure journalists are paid correctly, helped Whitney, 25, launch a small claims application.
But Whitney says she is no longer working at the radio network after her hours were reduced shortly after she first approached the ombudsman.
“I was being paid less than a cadet,” Whitney says. “I was being paid $13 an hour.
“I was the only journalist in the newsroom and I was writing the copy, reading it on air and producing the afternoon bulletins.”
Whitney, who was studying communications at Griffith University on the Gold Coast, worked part-time over a two-year period in the newsroom for Tweed Heads radio stations 97AM/103.5FM and 104.1FM, which are part of Caralis’s Super Radio Network.
Chief Industrial Magistrate Gregory Hart found Whitney, who was graded as a cadet, was most of the time the only person in the newsroom and worked part-time, and was therefore not receiving the supervision or training that might be expected for a cadet.
He found her duties “went well beyond that of simply reading the news bulletins and extended to the research, preparation and drafting of such bulletins”.
He found that while Whitney was performing tasks that would normally be given to a Grade 1, Band 1 journalist under the Commercial Radio Journalists Award, in the case of part-time work, the lowest rate of pay was for a Grade 2 journalist. That meant Whitney should have been paid $18.77 an hour rather than the cadet rate of $13.35 at which she was classified.
Mark Davidson, Fair Work Ombudsman NSW director, said the office was “happy to help this young woman secure this amount of back pay but ideally she should have been classified correctly in the first place”.
Tweed Radio & Broadcasting has been ordered to reimburse Whitney $10,000 in back pay. The company has until October 6 to make the payment.
David Fryatt, the solicitor for Super Radio Network, said his client accepted the judgment and Whitney would be paid as directed. “My client wants to help people in the industry and wants to encourage people to get into the industry but the way that (the award) is structured makes it very difficult when people are starting off to find a fair rate of pay when they’re part-time and they don’t have many skills,” Mr Fryatt said.
Super Radio Network contends Whitney’s case has “slipped through the cracks” and there are no other employees whose pay needs upgrading.
Editors Note: Last month another one of the Caralis Supernetwork stations was in the news for paying an employee $6.66 an hour