Day: December 11, 2017

Underclass of Restaurant Employees in Sydney Grossly Underpaid

Underpayment of wages and entitlements is common in the restaurant industry
Diners in Sydney’s A-list suburbs are unknowingly exploiting an underclass of employees who are being grossly underpaid, Fairfax Media has found.

Widespread cash-in-hand payments are resulting in hospitality workers being paid more than a third below the minimum wage, which is currently $15.96 per hour.

Fairfax has established restaurants in Manly, Neutral Bay and the northern beaches are paying employees as little as $10 an hour in cash.

The investigation has found the Sushi Bar Taka in Manly paid employees $10 an hour, Sushi Train in Neutral Bay was paying some employees $13 an hour and a northern beaches restaurant was paying $12 an hour.

With loadings and other entitlements, the workers are missing out on up to half the mandated salary they are entitled to.

A spokesman from Sushi Bar Taka said it was ‘‘not correct anyone was getting $10 an hour” but would not say what the hourly rate was, while a spokesperson at the Sushi Train refused to comment.
An underpaid Sydney hospitality employee, who asked not to be named, was recently burnt by boiling oil at work. The splashing oil hit the employee’s arms and face, causing scarring. When the employee took it up with the employer, the manager said the business didn’t have insurance. ‘‘It didn’t surprise me that they didn’t have insurance, when I know they underpay,’’ the employee said.
‘‘Everyone [who] works there didn’t know about the wage system, but they don’t complain because they don’t know about it.’’

Jacqui Swinburne, the employment solicitor from Redfern Legal Centre, said employees were being ripped off in Sydney restaurants and the fast food industry in a practice that was ‘‘widespread’’.
‘‘I have been really shocked by the underpayments,’’ Ms Swinburne said, who has worked at the legal centre for 10 years.

Ms Swinburne said owners often targeted international students who were unaware they were being exploited or paid below the minimum wage until they were dismissed.
‘‘Owners are making huge profits while they are exploiting people at the same time,’’ she said.
Andrew Edwards, a Fair Work Ombudsman investigator who regularly inspects conditions in restaurants, said it was common to find overseas students in particular working for cash in hand once they reached their 20-hour-per-week limit specified by their visa.

‘‘People find themselves in circumstances where the employer wants to give them more hours, but says ‘Let’s do it in cash because you’ve got this visa,’’’ he said.
Mr Edwards said he’d seen rates of between $10 and $8 for hospitality workers. ‘‘We’ve seen rates as low as that.’’

But John Hart, chief executive officer of the Restaurant and Catering Australia Association, said it was the restaurant owners who were getting the raw deal, not the employees.
“The owners businesses are being pushed to the wall where they can’t even afford to not be in their businesses,’’ he said. ‘‘They have to work every weekend because they can’t afford to hire staff to work on the weekend.’’

Mr Hart said it was an ‘‘employees’ market’’.
‘‘They get to choose where they pick work and they get paid incredibly well and that’s the way it is.”
Mr Hart did however concede that an estimated 50 per cent of businesses were not compliant with regulations.

“They are opting out of the system and if they stay in the system they are going to go broke,” he said.
“It’s a huge problem because the system is forcing them to pay cash in hand. The system is making them go back to opting out.’’

He said it was the smaller, medium restaurants who were not complying.
“The end market… they are the ones under pressure and they are the ones who opt out and they can opt out. They are not in the spotlight.”
Among those to complain to the Fair Work Ombudsman, is Yuka Odashima, a Japanese student who until recently worked at the Melbourne Japanese bar and restaurant group behind Nama Nama, Hihou and Izakaya Den.

A recent payslip for the 25-year-old shows she is being paid a flat rate of $15 per hour, plus superannuation.
Ms Odashima said the correct rate, according to the Fair Work Ombudsman, would have been around $21 an hour for much of her work.
‘‘It’s a really busy restaurant and bar and I am pretty sure they can pay proper salary to all staff but they don’t,’’ she said. ‘‘I asked the manager why they pay just $15 and he just started getting angry. He said ‘You can just find another job’.’’

She stopped being given shifts soon after this conversation, she said.
Ms Odashima conceded that she often got tips that supplemented her wage.
One of the restaurant group’s owners, Simon Denton, said Ms Odashima had not been taken off the group’s rosters because she had questioned her pay, but because she was not needed.
And he said his restaurant paid far better than many others. Many of his staff worked for restaurants that had paid them $10 an hour, he said. ‘‘A lot of the people who work for us work for other places for a hell of a lot less,’’ he said.

The Fair Work Ombudsman is now assessing the case.

Employer Apology Over Pregnancy Discrimination

Woman awarded $2,000 for pregnancy discrimination
A Melbourne homewares shop has been forced to pay out a former worker and publish an apology after it unlawfully reduced her hours when she became pregnant.

Good Housekeeping Australia in Cranbourne was found to have discriminated against a retail assistant in her early 20s when she told her boss that she was pregnant in 2011.

Owner-operator Hui Zhou reduced the woman’s hours from up to 27 to seven hours a week, explaining in a text message that “You have a baby now, and I can’t let you too tires (sic)“.
The assistant was told she could accept this or resign, which she did, later lodging a complaint with Fair Work Australia.

An investigation found the owner had breached the Fair Work Act and ordered Ms Zhou to pay her former worker $2000 in compensation.

The case comes as the federal government aims to give more Australian workers the right to request flexible working arrangements, but without compelling bosses to accept such requests.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions said on Monday that 50 per cent of women don’t go back to work because of workplaces that are unfriendly to families.

“This is crazy when you consider the impact on our economy” Ged Kearney, ACTU president said.
He called for the government’s proposed laws to go even further by giving employees the right to appeal to Fair Work Australia should an employer refuse a reasonable request for family friendly arrangements.
“If we want to improve productivity and ensure women get a fair go then we need to make sure that the onus is on employers to prove they are being reasonable and if they are not, that there is a right to appeal. Let’s give this tiger some teeth.”

The company that owns Good Housekeeping Australia, Shawna Pty Ltd, agreed to make an official written apology to former worker, and prominently display a sign in its shop detailing its breaches of workplace laws.

Ms Zhou, a Chinese immigrant, also agreed to place an advertisement in The Daily Chinese Herald to raise awareness of pregnancy discrimination laws among the Chinese community in Australia.
Fair Work Ombudsman Nicholas Wilson said the owner-operator admitted the breaches after workplace laws were explained, avoiding litigation.

“Enforceable undertakings are an alternative to litigation and result in strong outcomes without the need for civil court proceedings,” he said in a statement.

“They work by companies signing up to undertakings that may include back-paying past and present workers, public apologies, donations to not-for-profit organisations and workplace training.”
Ms Zhou did not respond to a message Fairfax Media left at her shop.

Car Dealer to Pay 72k Over Unfair Dismissal During Pregnancy

One of Tipperary’s best known car dealership, which is owned by a businessman who has campaigned against bullying, has been ordered to pay €72,000 to a former employee over its “wholly unacceptable” treatment of her during her pregnancy.

The Employment Appeals Tribunal heard evidence that Brian Mordaunt and Sons, based at Davis Rd, Clonmel, had asked the claimant to compromise her professional ethics over the treatment of Vat liabilities on repossessed vehicles.

The tribunal said it was reasonable that the claimant, Jennifer Beary of Kilsheelan, Co Tipperary, had left her job at the car dealership in light of the treatment she had received at the hands of her employer.
The company failed to appear at a public hearing of the unfair dismissal case held in Clonmel last month, despite being formally notified of the date.

The tribunal said Ms Beary was treated in a wholly unacceptable manner in relation to her pregnancy and statutory maternity entitlements. It was satisfied that the company had been unhappy about her pregnancy and her consequent unavailability for work.

It heard Ms Beary’s workload was increased considerably during her pregnancy and she had been informed that the company would need to shorten her maternity entitlement or work from home during her maternity leave.

Ms Beary gave evidence that while she was in hospital in May 2010 due to a serious bleed, she was inundated with texts and emails from her employer. On being discharged, she was collected from hospital and brought directly to her workplace.

After returning to work following the stillbirth of her baby in July 2010, Ms Beary was subjected to unacceptable comments and treatment described as “indecent”.

Mordaunts also insisted she return to work within a fortnight after the baby’s death on the understanding that it would be on a part-time basis until she felt able to cope. However, a week later the company terminated such an arrangement and demanded she return on a full-time basis.

“In these actions by the company there appears to have been a total disregard for the claimant’s well-being” said the tribunal.

It noted that mothers of stillborn babies delivered after the 24th week of pregnancy are entitled to 18 weeks’ maternity leave.

The tribunal was told that Ms Beary accidentally overheard a phone conversation in Jul 2010 which suggested the company had plans to replace her. A director, George Mordaunt, subsequently refused to discuss the issue with her.

Mr Mordaunt, is a motivational speaker and author of Shepherd’s Pie, which detailed the painful account of the company’s financial struggles during the recession, as well as how he stood up to bullying by bankers.
The Mordaunt group, a family-run car dealership, is celebrating 30 years in business this year, although it no longer holds any new car franchise.

The tribunal found Ms Beary was unfairly dismissed by Mordaunts based on her uncontested evidence.