A Melbourne restaurateur has been hit with $209,000 in penalties for underpaying overseas workers.
Judge Grant Riethmuller noted many of those affected by the wage theft are visa holders who speak Mandarin as their primary language.
“Employees with these backgrounds are in a particularly vulnerable position, and that is a factor to which I give significant weight.”
Melbourne restaurateur and accountant penalised
The Federal Circuit Court ordered Ye Shao to pay penalties of $15,000.
Additionally, it ordered his companies Wynn Sichuan and Nine Dragons to pay $95,000 and $88,000 respectively.
Furthermore, the companies’ in-house accountant Yizhu “Jessica” Ding admitted to being an accessory to the underpayments.
She also admitted to record-keeping contraventions, and, as a result, the court penalised her $11,000.
30 workers ripped off
Shao runs the ‘Tina’s Noodle Kitchen’ in Box Hill and ‘Dainty Schuan’ in the Melbourne CBD.
During a 2016 audit, Fair Work inspectors discovered he underpaid:
- 17 employees at Dainty Sichuan a total of $18,190, and
- 13 employees at Tina’s Noodle Kitchen a total of $12,805.
Shao paid illegal flat hourly rates between $10 an hour and $23.33 an hour.
In addition, he made some staff work six or seven days a week, sometimes more than 10-hours a day.
Furthermore, he failed to pay:
- penalty rates for weekends and public holidays,
- and failed to keep records and provide payslips.
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Exploitation of migrant workers common
Industrial advocate Miles Heffernan from WAGETHEFT.net.au says exploitation of migrant workers is common.
“Many migrant workers don’t know their workplace rights, or they don’t complain because they fear losing their visa,” he said.
“That makes them easy targets for low-life greedy bosses like Mr Shao.
Mr Heffernan welcomed the hefty penalties, however, he still believes criminal penalties are needed to combat wage theft.
“Until we start locking up thieving bosses, they will continue to steal wages from their workers,” he said.
Shao paid back his workers before the legal proceedings began.
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