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Ombudsman thrives with own lawyers

Ombudsman thrives with own lawyers

The decision to significantly reduce external legal spend has not dulled the success of the Fair Work Ombudsman, with $2.1 million in penalties arising from FWO-initiated litigation last…

The decision to significantly reduce external legal spend has not dulled the success of the Fair Work Ombudsman, with $2.1 million in penalties arising from FWO-initiated litigation last financial year.

The FWO's spend on external legal fees for the 2010-11 financial year was $2.8 million, down 38 per cent from $4.6 million the previous year.

Earlier this year, the FWO gained approval to use its own legal team to conduct all civil penalty litigations, with the Federal Government granting the national employment regulator a 12-month exemption from the Legal Services Directions 2005.

Fair Work Ombudsman Nicholas Wilson said that since 2006, court-ordered penalties arising from the Agency's legal activity have exceeded $7.7 million.

"In 2010-11, the Fair Work Ombudsman initiated 55 litigation matters - 41 of them over underpayment of wages," he said.

"Four prosecutions related to sham contracting, two each for agreement making, unlawful industrial action, failure to comply with a notice to produce and discrimination and one each for breach of freedom of association and adverse action."

The FWO has a team of 37 lawyers headed by its Sydney-based chief counsel, Janine Webster.

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