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$69,000 SHORT: Melbourne restaurant worker allegedly severely underpaid

Tony Yoo
Close-up of chef’s hands holding a saute pan to cook food, flambeing contents. Flames rising from the pan. (Image: Getty)
Close-up of chef’s hands holding a saute pan to cook food, flambeing contents. Flames rising from the pan. (Image: Getty)

A Melbourne Chinese restaurant will face court to defend allegations it underpaid one staffer almost $70,000, as well as providing falsified records during a Fair Work Ombudsman investigation.

The Fair Work Ombudsman announced it is taking legal action against China Bar Buffet (Epping) Pty Ltd for allegedly short-changing a kitchen hand $69,321 between February 2015 and December 2016.

The restaurant’s owner Siak Kong Chi and bookkeeper Ying Lee will also face court to answer allegations of underpayment and later giving ombudsman inspectors documents with “inaccurate hours of work and payments” for staff at the China Bar Express fast food eatery.

The ombudsman revealed that an investigation was triggered after a complaint from the affected staffer, who had regularly worked 60 hours a week at the China Bar Signature restaurant but was allegedly only paid between $700 and $1060 each week.

This meant that the wage had fallen well short of standard, overtime, weekend and public holiday rates the employee was entitled to under the industry award.

The ombudsman is also accusing the restaurant of short-changing the worker on annual leave, superannuation and split shift allowances.

The alleged victim is a Chinese national living in Australia on a spousal visa, but Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said that that’s no excuse for not paying the proper rates.

“All workers in Australia have the same rights at work, regardless of citizenship or visa status, and we urge any migrant workers with concerns to contact us,” she said.

“We have an agreement with the Department of Home Affairs where visa holders can ask for our help without fear of their visa being cancelled.”

A directions hearing is scheduled for the Federal Circuit Court in Melbourne for May 7. The restaurant faces a maximum penalty of $63,000 per violation, and Chi and Lee could be fined up to $12,600 per contravention.

The underpayment still has not been paid out to the affected worker, alleges the ombudsman, who said the fast food and catering sector is being closely scrutinised at the moment.

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