The Australian franchisor of bubble tea chain Chatime and its managing director, Chen ‘Charlley’ Zhao, will face court in Sydney on 29 January 2020 over alleged underpayments.

The Fair Work Ombudsman is claiming Chatime Australia Pty Ltd, which is the franchisor of dozens of Chatime outlets around Australia, underpaid 152 employees — including 42 junior workers aged below 21 and 95 visa holders — a total of $169,320.

The individual underpayments, which ranged from from $58 to $3,990, occurred at Chatime Australia-operated stores between August and December 2016. Flat rates from as low as $7.59 to $24.30 per hour were paid and there was a practice of not paying Fast Food Industry Award entitlements such as loadings and penalty rates. The underpayments have since been rectified in full.

Although the Chatime brand is present in all major cities with more than 120 stores nationwide, the sting is limited to Melbourne and Sydney — underpaid employees were located at 10 Chatime outlets in Sydney across Bondi Junction, Chatswood, Wetherill Park and the CBD; and nine Chatime outlets in Melbourne, across Dandenong, Doncaster, Glen Waverley, Cheltenham and the CBD.

It’s further alleged Zhao had been equipped with information about minimum Award rates by the company’s former chief financial officer, who also highlighted to him that Chatime Australia was “only partially complying” with the Award.

Zhao faces penalties of up to $10,800 per contravention and the maximum penalty for Chatime Australia is up to $54,000 per contravention.

Earlier this year, the former operators of a Chatime outlet in Sydney also faced court over underpayment allegations.



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