The operators ’85 Degrees’ café brand are set to face Federal Circuit Court in Sydney, with the Fair Work Ombudsman alleging young Taiwanese students were underpaid.

It’s alleged eight Taiwanese students were underpaid a total of $429,393.18 over a period of just under 12 months from July 2016 to June 2017.

It’s claimed Taiwanese company Comestibles Master Co Ltd, the franchisor of the ’85 Degrees’ café brand in Taiwan, was responsible the underpayments. The students performed work at 85 Degrees factories and cafes based in Sydney, which are operated by 85 Degrees Coffee Australia Pty Ltd. It’s also alleged 85 Degrees Coffee Australia Pty Ltd was an accessory to some of the contraventions that occurred between April and June 2017.

The regulator investigated the matter after receiving requests for assistance from the employees, who were aged between 20 to 22 at the time and spoke little English.

According to the allegations, the employees were students at the Taipei City University of Science and Technology in Taiwan who came to Australia on working-holiday visas under an ‘internship’ arrangement between Comestibles Master Co Ltd and the University. The arrangement placed the students in 85 Degrees factories and retail stores in Sydney, which operated by 85 Degrees Coffee Australia Pty Ltd.

It is alleged that four students worked at an 85 Degrees cake factory in St Peters preparing and packing cakes and cleaning; two worked at 85 Degrees bread factory in Hurstville preparing and packing bread products; one worked across the St Peters factory and the 85 Degrees café outlet in Hurstville and one worked at the 85 Degrees café outlet on George Street in the Sydney CBD.

It is alleged that the students were entitled to be paid the minimum rates and entitlements under the applicable Awards, including minimum wage rates, overtime rates, penalty rates, annual leave entitlements and superannuation.

It is alleged the employees worked 60 to 70 hours per week and that each of the employees was underpaid between $50,213 and $58,248. Contraventions of record-keeping and pay slip laws are also alleged.

85 Degrees Coffee Australia Pty entered into an Enforceable Undertaking in 2015 in respect to contraventions relating to other visa holders; it’s alleged the company contravened a term of that Enforceable Undertaking.

The FWO is seeking a court order requiring Comestibles Masters Co Ltd and 85 Degrees Coffee Australia Pty Ltd to rectify the alleged underpayments in full. Both companies face penalties of up to $54,000 per contravention.

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