A fast food operator in Brisbane is facing court for allegedly short-changing two overseas workers more than $18,000, despite previously being put on notice to pay staff correctly.
The Fair Work Ombudsman has commenced legal action against WY Pty Ltd, which formerly operated two Hanaichi Japanese Fine Food outlets at the Chermside shopping centre.
It currently operates one outlet at Indooroopilly.
Also facing Court is WY Pty Ltd director and part-owner Chong Yew Chua and the company’s former internal payroll and account manager, Ning Yuan Fu.
It is alleged that two workers – a man and woman from Taiwan aged in their 20s who speak limited English – were underpaid a total of $18,491 while employed as kitchen hands at the Chermside outlets between February and August, 2015.
The two Taiwanese nationals were in Australia on 417 working holiday visas at the time and were employed after responding to advertisements on non-English language websites targeting Asian backpackers seeking work in Australia.
The Fair Work Ombudsman investigated after the workers lodged requests for assistance, and allegedly found they had been paid flat rates as low as $15.60 an hour.
Under the Fast Food Industry Award, the casual employees should have been paid between $23.15 and $23.74 for ordinary hours and penalty rates of between $27.78 and $28.49 for Saturday work and between $50.93 and $52.23 for public holiday work.
A special clothing allowance was also allegedly underpaid and unlawful deductions were allegedly made from their wages as ‘bonds’ for their uniforms.
In addition, the employees were allegedly not provided with a copy of the Fair Work Information Statement at the start of their employment.
Workplace laws relating to informing both employees about their classification and one employee about their status were also allegedly contravened.
Fair Work inspectors put Chua and Fu on notice to pay staff correctly in 2012 after finding staff were being underpaid at that time.
As a result, WY Pty Ltd reimbursed two employees more than $400.
Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James said the decision to litigate over the latest alleged contraventions follows concerns that the business operators have continued to deliberately recruit and underpay vulnerable overseas workers.
Chua and Fu face maximum penalties of up to $10,800 per contravention and WY Pty Ltd faces penalties of up to $54,000 per contravention. The Fair Work Ombudsman is also seeking Court Orders requiring WY Pty Ltd to include Fast Food Industry Award details and Fair Work Ombudsman contact information in all job advertisements it places in future, including on overseas websites – and to provide new employees with a copy of the Fair Work Information Statement (FWIS) in their language of choice.
A directions hearing is listed for 26 September in the Federal Circuit Court in Brisbane.