Aussie businesses ripping off workers
A nationwide crackdown has exposed 51 hospitality businesses for exploiting vulnerable migrant workers, recovering more than $160,000 in unpaid wages.
The Fair Work Ombudsman investigated restaurants, cafes and fast food businesses after it was told of an alarming pattern of Korean workers being taken advantage of, particularly students.
Its inspectors scoured the industry and found employers exploiting staff who feared their visas would be cancelled if they complained of being ripped off or being forced into illegal working conditions.
"Australian workplace laws protect all workers, regardless of nationality or age," the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) Sandra Parker said in a statement provided to news.com.au.
"As this investigation shows, the Fair Work Ombudsman prioritises matters involving migrant workers who may be particularly vulnerable due to visa status and have limited knowledge of their rights."
Businesses were caught ripping off 284 workers in Brisbane, Sydney, Perth, Melbourne and Canberra in a crackdown between August and December last year.
One business in the Victorian capital underpaid 11 workers nearly $57,000.
"While this investigation commenced prior to the pandemic, the FWO continues to enforce workplace laws in the food sector as a priority," Ms Parker said.
"We do so in a proportionate manner, knowing that COVID-19 has had a significant impact on many businesses in the fast food, restaurant and cafe sector."
In July, Westpac joined the long list of major companies to reveal it had underpaid staff, with the rorting becoming so widespread Attorney-General Christian Porter described it as an "endemic problem" in corporate Australia.
It followed a dismal stretch of wage theft cases across retail networks, hospitality businesses and other employers before the coronavirus dominated headlines.
In October, Woolworths revealed it owed nearly 6000 salaried team members pay stretching back nine years, amounting to $300 million.
Major restaurant players were also guilty such as Neil Perry's Rockpool Dining Group, which owes staff at least $10 million, and fellow celebrity chef George Calombaris, who repaid workers $7.8 million.
Others included the ABC, Target, Qantas, Commonwealth Bank, Sunglass Hut, 7-Eleven, Bunnings, and Super Retail Group.
The shameful patterned spurred the AG to threaten the introduction of new industrial relations reforms to name and shame those guilty of wage theft.
"Get your house in order," Mr Porter said in February.
"We've had large organisations that involve themselves in any number of social issues that spend an enormous amount of time, money and effort self-promoting with PR campaigns and national advertising telling us how good they are.
"Pay your people properly."
The Fair Work Ombudsman urged those unsure of their rights to call its infoline on 13 13 94 or a free interpreter service on 13 14 50.
It assures foreigners will be provided with information without fear of their visa being cancelled.
If you were underpaid by your employer and want to have a chat, get in touch at email@example.com or @James_P_Hall
Originally published as Aussie businesses ripping off workers