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Uni students score $330,000 in surprise audits

Hospitality workers in regional areas have been paid $330,000 after the Fair Work Ombudsman found a high number of businesses failing to meet requirements. Images: Getty

Workers in Wollongong, Ballarat and Albury-Wodonga have won $331,386 in wages after surprise audits from the Fair Work Ombudsman found certain businesses were underpaying their staff.

The inspectors targeted those three regions due to the large population of university students, and a large number of anonymous reports.

Of the 489 businesses audited, nearly half (47 per cent) failed the Fair Work Ombudsman’s test.

The majority failed as they had been underpaying their workers, or not paying the correct penalty rates. Other businesses did not provide staff with proper pay slips, while others failed to comply with record-keeping rules.

Uni students were most likely to be paid appropriately in Albury-Wodonga, where 59 per cent of businesses were fully compliant with workplace laws, followed by 45 per cent in Ballarat.

However, only 38 per cent of businesses in Wollongong are compliant with workplace laws.

“Like many workers in the hospitality industry, young workers in these regions were potentially vulnerable due to their age, visa status and reliance on local jobs to support themselves,” Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said.

“Australia’s minimum pay rates are not negotiable, and employers in the fast food, restaurant and café sector need to actively check that they are paying their staff correctly before we visit their business."

More than half (55 per cent) of the money recovered came from hospitality businesses, with 67 employers set to back-pay a total $181,557 to 573 employees.

Back payments ranged from $7.26 to $40,434.69.

The Fair Work Ombudsman issued 37 fines, 35 cautions and nine compliance notices.

Employers “choose to ignore their legal obligations”

The national secretary of hospitality workers’ union United Voice, Jo-anne Schofield said the figures show some employers are “continuing to choose to ignore their legal obligations and that wage theft, including not getting the legal minimum, is a daily reality for many workers in these regions”.

“Workers deserve fair pay and secure jobs – and this Fair Work Ombudsman sweep shows many workers are being denied both.

“Systemic change is needed to ensure jobs we can all count on.”

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