New Shanghai restaurant allegedly underpaid staff over $580k

12 May, 2016 by
Danielle Bowling

Eighty-five employees at a New Shanghai restaurant in regional NSW were underpaid more than $583,000 over a 16 month period, the Fair Work Ombudsman is alleging.

The operators of the Charlestown restaurant at Lake Macquarie are facing court for allegedly paying workers – some of who were international students with limited English – as little as $10 an hour.

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Additionally, Zhong Yuan ‘John’ Chen is accused of fabricating employment records to try to disguise the underpayments. Also facing court is Chen’s company, NSH North, the restaurant manager and the company’s human resources manager.

The employees, who worked as waiters, kitchen staff and cooks, were entitled to receive more than $20 an hour for normal hours and between $24 and $45 an hour for weekend, public holiday and overtime work.

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The underpayments took place between July 2013 and November 2014, with one employee allegedly underpaid more than $33,000.

The Fair Work Ombudsman alleges that Chen and the two managers were aware of the Restaurant Industry Award minimum rates.

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They face penalties of up to $10,200 per contravention, while NSH North faces penalties of up to $51,000 per contravention.

While NSH North has already commenced reimbursing staff members, the Fair Work Ombudsman is seeking Court Orders for it to backpay all outstanding wages.

In January, Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James revealed that the agency was enlisting the support of the Chinese business community to help educate Chinese employers and their employees about their workplace rights and obligations. A series of roundtable discussions with key Chinese leaders last year endorsed a strategic approach to engaging with the community to build a culture of compliance with workplace laws.

“Anyone establishing a business, including migrant employers, needs to ensure they take the time to understand our workplace laws applicable to their business,” James said.

“Migrant employers simply cannot undercut the minimum lawful entitlements of their employees based on what they think the job may be worth, what the employee is happy to accept, what other businesses are paying or what the job may pay in their country of origin.”