Cairns business leader reacts to allegations that her companies are involved in underpayment claims

Former employees of a Cairns media company have lodged claims with the Fair Work Ombudsman and the Australian Taxation Office for unpaid entitlements they allege are owed to them.

Tropic Now has spoken to five former staff members who worked for Oasis Media Cairns Pty Ltd and 2 Mad Mums Pty Ltd (now deregistered) at different periods between 2017 and 2019.

Among their grievances, the former staff allege they are owed various amounts for unpaid superannuation and leave entitlements. Some amounts allegedly owed are minor, while one claim submitted to Fair Work Ombudsman and viewed by Tropic Now is for more than $6800.

According to ASIC records, Julianne Steer is the sole director of Oasis Media Cairns Pty Ltd and was also the sole director of 2 Mad Mums Pty Ltd from September 2015 until its deregistration in October last year.

Ms Steer is President of the Cairns Business Women’s Club, which aims to “offer mutual support, inspiration, networking, professional development and assistance to members”.

In a letter from her lawyer, Ms Steer denied all allegations contained in the employee complaints lodged with Fair Work Ombudsman and the Australian Tax Office.

Ms Steer this week threatened defamation action against two of the former employees for allegations they made on social media about Ms Steer and their former employment conditions.

Ms Steer did not respond to repeated requests for an interview and opportunities for a right of reply, including nine questions submitted by Tropic Now on Wednesday after media inquiries were referred to Ms Steer’s lawyer.

On Monday, before media inquiries were directed to her lawyer, Ms Steer told Tropic Now the former employee's claims for outstanding entitlements were baseless and “very unfortunate”.

The former employees worked for Oasis Media Cairns Pty Ltd and 2 Mad Mums Pty Ltd (now deregistered) at varying times and in various roles between February 2017 and November 2019.

Two of the former staff members have lodged claims with the Fair Work Ombudsman and the Australian Tax Office, however they have been told they have little recourse for recompense because the relevant company (2 Mad Mums Pty Ltd) no longer exists.

“Unfortunately, this means there is no business or company to take action against,” said a letter signed by ATO Deputy Commissioner of Taxation, James O’Halloran to one of the former employees. “As a result, we can take no further action in relation to your query.”

One of the former staff members, who was employed for 18 months, told Tropic Now she didn’t realise she wasn’t receiving employer super contributions until she received a warning from her superannuation fund that if a contribution wasn’t made soon, her insurance would lapse.

“Our payslips, when we did receive them, always said there was a sum of money going into my superannuation account so I never thought to question it,” the former employee said.

As part of its investigation, Tropic Now has been provided with a range of correspondence between Ms Steer and some of the former staff, including text messages, emails, and social media messages, along with documentation such as payslips and superannuation account statements.

Before media inquiries were directed to her lawyer, Ms Steer told Tropic Now in a phone interview: “As I’ve continued to tell them if they feel they have a claim they can make it through Fair Work. One of the girls that started all of this worked for me for 5 days. It’s very unfortunate that they feel this way. I don’t feel there is any basis for these claims.”

The former staff members all asked to remain anonymous after Ms Steer threatened defamation action against two of them for social media comments they posted on Tropic Now’s Facebook page as well as a personal Facebook page.

The Facebook comments were deleted by Tropic Now following a request by Ms Steer shortly after the comments were posted by the former staff members on Sunday.

In a letter sent to the two former employees by Ms Steer’s legal representatives on Wednesday, she is seeking a “substantial sum” for defamation damages but is willing to accept an offer that includes $20,000 in damages and costs and “the provision of an apology in satisfactory terms”.

Since Tropic Now’s investigation began on Monday, Ms Steer has messaged at least two former employees offering to resolve any potential outstanding issues they are making claims for.

NOTE: This story was updated at 1.30pm to reflect changes to the name "Fair Work Ombudsman" (previously "Fair Work Australia")