Cairns cafes fined $33,600 for underpayments

11 June 2010

The operator of two cafes in Cairns which underpaid more than 180 staff has been fined $33,600 following a prosecution by the Fair Work Ombudsman.

The Federal Magistrates Court in Brisbane has imposed the penalty on Sanada Investments Pty Ltd, which operates Sushi Trains cafes at Cairns Central and City Place.

The company admitted four contraventions of workplace laws when it underpaid 181 employees a total of $119,760.

Most of the underpaid workers were Japanese and Korean nationals who were in Australia on working holiday visas and who spoke limited English.

Federal Magistrate Michael Jarrett found that Sanada’s contraventions displayed “at least a reckless disregard for its statutory obligation as an employer”.

Delivering his judgment, Federal Magistrate Jarrett said there was a need to impose a penalty that sent a message “to employers and the community generally that underpayment of wages will not be tolerated, and this is particularly the case where vulnerable employees are involved”.

The employees were underpaid their minimum hourly rate, late work rates for night shifts and penalty rates for overtime and weekend work.

Fair Work Ombudsman Executive Director Michael Campbell says 36 of the underpaid employees were back-paid a total of $29,739.

When the employer was unable to locate the other 145, largely because most had returned overseas, the company paid a further $90,021 to the Collector of Public Monies, where it will be held in perpetuity until claimed.

Mr Campbell says the Sanada penalty sends a message to employers who short-change employees that they will be held to account for their actions and can face much higher costs in the long-run.

“This prosecution benefits all Cairns employers in the food and beverage industry who are complying with workplace laws, because it helps them to operate in this competitive industry on a level playing field,” he said.

Workers who believe they may have been underpaid in a previous job can call the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94 for assistance. For translations call 13 14 50.

Employers or employees with workplace relations questions should contact the Fair Work Infoline or visit www.fwo.gov.au

Media inquiries:

Craig Bildstien, Director, Media & Stakeholder Relations,
0419 818 484
craig.bildstien@fwo.gov.au

Ryan Pedler, Media & Stakeholder Relations Senior Adviser
(03) 9954 2561, 0434 365 924
ryan.pedler@fwo.gov.au

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