Restaurant employees on working holiday visas in Australia grossly underpaid

by Ray Clancy on October 23, 2017

in Jobs in Australia

Foreigners working in restaurants in Australia, often students and backpackers, are being warned that they should make sure they are being paid at least the minimum wage.

It comes after a judge described the operators of a Gold Coast restaurant as having behaved in a ‘heinous’ way after paying overseas workers as little as $8 an hour and using false records to try to cover it up.

Kitchen Workers

(Christian Vinces/

Shigeo Ishiyama, who owns and operates the Samurais Paradise restaurant at Surfers Paradise and formerly operated the Japanese Curry House Kawaii restaurant nearby, was found to have underpaid nine workers a total of $59,080 over a period of just four months and has been fined $38,000 and his company fined £246,400.

It resulted from an investigation by the Fair Work Ombudsman which found that the workers, most of whom were in Australia with working holiday visas, were being underpaid as waiters and cooks.

Inspectors found Ishiyama and his company had been paying employees flat rates of between $8 and $11 an hour for all hours worked and created false records to conceal the underpayments.

Under the Restaurant Industry Award 2010 at the time, the employees were entitled to minimum hourly rates of up to $18.47 and penalty rates ranging from $26.03 to $46.18 for weekend and public holiday work. Other loadings and allowances were also underpaid.

In his judgment, Judge Salvatore Vasta described the exploitation of the workers as ‘certainly deliberate’ and imposed near maximum penalties for the record keeping contraventions, describing them as very serious.

Ishiyama’s company has now paid the workers’ wages in full and Judge Vasta has also ordered the company to back-pay the employees more than $8,000 in outstanding superannuation.

Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James pointed out that any businesses found to be breaching record keeping laws run the risk of receiving even higher penalties in the future.

‘Using false records in attempt to get away with underpaying workers is an insidious practice. Without adequate records in can sometimes be difficult for Fair Work Inspectors to accurately calculate a worker’s entitlements,’ she said.

She also pointed out that the Australian Parliament has also acknowledged the seriousness of falsifying records having recently passed legislation tripling the maximum penalties for this conduct.

She is increasingly concerned about the number of employers from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds who are underpaying workers from within their own ethnic communities.

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