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Sushi operators fined more than $380,000 for underpaying ‘vulnerable’ workers
Katherine O’Chee | 승인 2019.06.06 14:21

The former operators of three sushi outlets in regional NSW have been fined more than $380,000 for underpaying workers, including several visa holders. 

The Fair Work Ombudsman took the previous owners of the Tokyo Sushi bars in Newcastle and the Central Coast to court after they found evidence that 31 employees were ripped off more than $70,000 in 2016. 

Eight of the underpaid workers were juniors and a number were visa holders. They were underpaid in weekday rates, casual loadings and penalty rates for weekend and public holiday shifts. 

Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker warned the regulator is prioritising a crackdown on underpayments in the fast food industry. 

“Young migrant workers can be particularly vulnerable to exploitation if they are reluctant to complain due to visa concerns or unaware of their workplace rights,” Ms Parker said in a statement. 

“The Fair Work Ombudsman takes the blatant underpayment of vulnerable workers particularly seriously, which has been supported by the Court’s substantial penalty.

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

Inspectors discovered the underpayments when they audited more than 40 sushi outlets across NSW, Canberra and South-East Queensland. 

Judge Philip Dowdy described the non-compliance as “serious” and said there is “no excuse” for underpaying workers.

“The simple fact of the matter is that persons who engage in business activities which necessitate the employment of staff are under a strict obligation to pay their staff the just entitlements of the staff in accordance with law, whether the relevant employer is a major corporation or, as here, a family business,” Judge Dowdy said.
“Employees are entitled to respect and part of that respect is to pay them their full entitlements which must be recognised and known to the employer.” 

Owner Kiyoshi Hasegawa was personally penalised $63,936. The two companies owned by her and her family, Hasegawa & Ye International Pty Ltd and Heiwa International Pty Ltd, were fined $150,120 and $169,560 respectively. 
Judge Dowdy said the penalties should deter employers “who might be inclined to contravene the Fair Work Act in a similar fashion”. 

Katherine O’Chee  edit@hanhodaily.com

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