Hundreds of workers in Gold Coast cafes, take away stores and restaurants have been underpaid a total of $215,000.
The Fair Work Ombudsman discovered the wage theft during surprise audits of 50 “cheap eats” outlets in the area.
Gold Coast workers have wages stolen
Inspectors found a staggering 88 percent of businesses in Southport and Broadbeach breached workplace laws.
The breaches involved underpayments and also failing to issue pay slips and not keeping proper employment records.
The outlets owed 446 workers individual amounts of between $153 and $20,333 each.
Fair Work issued 35 Compliance Notices and also 12 Infringement Notices, resulting in fines of $9,282.
Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said many of the businesses inspectors checked employ migrant workers vulnerable to exploitation.
“Cheap eats precincts attract uni students, young people in addition to migrant workers and we have found really high levels of non-compliance,” she said.
“These workers are often vulnerable, they don’t understand their rights, if they’re visa holders we also have this alarming issue where they’re nervous of coming forward and complaining because they’re fearful of losing their jobs.
“They might be frightened about their visa status.”
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Wage theft rife
Meanwhile, industrial advocate Miles Heffernan said the audits prove that wage theft is a business model in the fast food and hospitality sectors.
“It is clear that wage theft is rife, and that’s because there is little chance of greedy bosses getting caught, and even if they do, they face few consequences,” he said.
“Most of these Gold Coast business breached workplace laws, yet, Fair Work only issued 12 penalty notices – it’s a joke.”
Mr Heffernan said wage theft is now a crime in Queensland, and encouraged workers who have had their wages stolen to contact his firm for advice about their options.
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