Cadaver driver takes payment case to court

A SOUTHERN Downs funeral transfer service has been ordered to pay more than $8000 after a magistrate found it had underpaid a cadaver driver.

Casual driver Robert John Ettery took his employment claim to the Warwick Magistrates Court to argue he had not been paid an overnight fee during 33 weeks in 2011-12 when he was moving bodies for Killarney-based company Funeral Transfer Services of Australia.

Mr Ettery claimed he was verbally offered 24c/km, a $12.50 handling fee for each cadaver he collected or dropped off and a $130 overnight allowance for meals and accommodation when applicable.

FTSA managing director Jane Domjahn said Mr Ettery had agreed to pay the overnight cost out of his own pocket and then claim it as a tax deduction.

She said she had given Mr Ettery two options and that was the option he chose, a claim Mr Ettery disputed.

Magistrate Graham Lee, in a judgment now published online, said Mr Ettery's kilometre rate in his payslips varied from week to week to as low as 1c/km one week.

He said Mr Ettery regularly checked when there was an anomaly with his calculations and was told it would "all work out in the long run".

Mr Lee found that the kilometre rate had been lowered during the course of the year so that the overnight allowances expressed in the payslips had no net effect.

He said there were 64 overnights which added up to $8320 at $130 a night.

Mr Lee said, after looking at training manuals and email correspondence, that "on balance" he believed Mr Ettery had been underpaid based on what was offered to him when he accepted employment.

"I accept (Mr Ettery) queried the employer consistently about this and he was simply told that it will all wash up in the end," he said.

"Of course, when he got his end of year statement of earnings, he discovered that the employer had not paid the $130 per night accommodation at all. He resigned shortly thereafter."

FTSA - which operates mostly throughout Queensland and parts of NSW - has been ordered to pay $8320 to Mr Ettery and $87 court fees. - APN NEWSDESK

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