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Sushi operator allegedly underpaid vulnerable workers

22 employees underpaid a total of $18,671.
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Sushi operator allegedly underpaid vulnerable workers

Sushi operator allegedly underpaid vulnerable workers

14 December 2017

This article orginally appeard on Fair Work.

The Fair Work Ombudsman has commenced legal action against the operator of a chain of sushi outlets for allegedly exploiting overseas workers in Canberra.

The owner owns and operates several sushi outlets across NSW, Queensland, the Northern Territory and the ACT, including an outlet in Canberra.

It is alleged the owner underpaid 22 employees employed in her Canberra outlet at a total of $18,671 between November 2015 and March 2016.

A majority of the underpaid employees were Korean nationals in Australia on working holiday and student visas.

Four of the allegedly underpaid workers were juniors aged between 17 and 19.

Fair Work Ombudsman inspectors audited the Canberra outlet as part of a proactive compliance activity last year that involved inspectors visiting more than 40 sushi outlets across Northern NSW, Newcastle, Central Coast NSW, the Gold Coast and Canberra, to check workers were being paid correctly.

Inspectors allegedly found that pay rates did not comply with the Restaurant Industry Award 2010 at the Canberra outlet.

It is alleged that employees’ minimum weekday rates, casual loadings and penalty rates for weekend and public holiday work were underpaid.

It is also alleged that leave entitlements were underpaid and that laws relating to making part-time agreements and record-keeping were contravened. 

The employees were allegedly underpaid amounts ranging from $103 to $1992. The company has rectified the underpayments in full.

Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James says a significant factor in the decision to commence legal action was that the Fair Work Ombudsman had received underpayment allegations dating back to 2007 from employees of businesses operated by the same owner - and she had previously been put on notice to
rectify non-compliance issues.

This included the Fair Work Ombudsman formally cautioning the owner in May 2015 that enforcement action could be taken against her for any contraventions identified in future.

Ms James says that the involvement of young and vulnerable workers is also a concerning aspect of the
matter.

The Fair Work Ombudsman is seeking the imposition of penalties against the owner and company, as well as an injunction restraining them from underpaying workers in future.

The owner faces penalties of up to $10,800 per contravention, while the company faces penalties of up to $54,000 per contravention.

If the injunction is granted, each could face contempt of court proceedings for any further contraventions proven in court.

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