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Exploiting migrant workers cost this sushi operator a $124,000 fine

(Photo: Getty)
(Photo: Getty)

The operator of a chain of sushi outlets in Canberra has been ordered by the Federal Circuit Court to pay $124,416 for deliberately underpaying migrant workers.

‘Sushi Bay Belconnen’ owner and operator, Rebecca Yi Jeong Shin, admitted to underpaying 22 employees at the chain a total sum of $18,671 between November 2015 and March 2016.

The workers – mostly Korean nationals in Australia on working holiday or student visas, some of whom were 19 years old or younger – were underpaid anywhere between $103 and $1,992, and have been repaid in full.

Inspectors discovered that pay rates at the Canberra sushi chain did not comply with the Restaurant Industry Award 2010, and underpaid workers didn’t receive their minimum weekday rates, casual loadings, and weekend and public holiday penalty rates.

Additionally, leave entitlements were not fully given, and other breaches relating to part-time agreements and record-keeping were also uncovered.

Shin has been fined $20,736 with her company Sushi Bay ACT to fork out $103,680.

Young, migrant workers exploited

The Fair Work Ombudsman has put Shin on notice about underpayments before: in May 2015, she received a formal caution that any future contraventions of workplace laws would result in enforcement action.

Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said rectifying the exploitation of vulnerable and migrant workers in the fast food and restaurant sectors were key priorities for the Ombudsman.

“We will continue to conduct audits across the fast food, restaurant and café sector and we will hold employers accountable if they are not meeting their lawful obligations,” she said.

The Sushi Bay Belconnen underpayments were discovered as part of an audit of over 40 sushi outlets across Canberra, South-East Queensland, the Hunter, Central Coast, Coffs Harbour and North Coast regions in NSW.

Federal Circuit Court Judge Brana Obradovic said the matter involved the deliberate underpayment of basic and fundamental entitlements.

“The Court finds that the contravening conduct was deliberate in light of [Ms Shin’s] admitted knowledge, prior audits, history of employee complaints and the education provided by the Fair Work Ombudsman,” said Judge Obradovic.

Sushi Bay ACT has also been ordered to commission an external audit of its compliance, to rectify any other underpayments found, and to commission workplace relations training for Shin as well as senior managers and payroll staff.

You can leave an anonymous tip-off with the Fair Work Ombudsman on their website. Their infoline is available at 13 13 94.

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