The operators of three Japanese-style food outlets in Queensland will face court for allegedly underpaying five overseas workers almost $150,000.

Lee Wee Song and Siew Lay Yeoh operated Tsuyoetsu Pty Ltd and Laikuken Pty Ltd which ran the foodservice businesses Teppanyaki Lovers Nigi and Ku-O in Brisbane and Mount Gravatt.

The Fair Work Ombudsman claims five overseas workers on student, bridging and partner visas were collectively underpaid $148,710 whilst working at the three outlets between November 2011 and October 2014.

The workers comprised three males and two females, all with limited English and aged between 25 and 29 years. Four are from Taiwan and one is from Malaysia.

The workers were allegedly underpaid $45,182, $37,039, $21,837 and $13,880 in minimum hourly rates, casual loadings, shift allowances, annual leave entitlements and penalty rates for weekends, nights and public holidays.

The employers have agreed to a backpayment plan however the Fair Work Ombudsman said legal action was initiated because of the significance of the underpayments and the involvement of vulnerable visa holders.

Song and Yeoh each face maximum penalties of $10,200 per contravention and the companies they operated face penalties of up to $51,000 per contravention.

In March, the Fair Work Ombudsman revealed that auditing of 223 takeaway food businesses had identified 929 employers who had been underpaid a total of $582,410.

Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James said the results highlighted the need for behavioural change, adding that the hospitality sector will remain a “priority” industry earmarked for ongoing education and support.

“The Fair Work Ombudsman is striving to build a culture of compliance where businesses understand and comply with their lawful obligations and do not inadvertently or deliberately undercut their competitors by paying black market wage rates,” she said.

“It is important that major players in the hospitality sector, industry groups and intermediaries such as accountants and lawyers, all play their part to help lift the levels of compliance above what we are seeing now.”


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