Fish and chip shop workers underpaid $40k

2 August 2016

The operators of two fish and chip shops in the Newcastle region of NSW have agreed to back-pay workers almost $40,000 following an investigation by the Fair Work Ombudsman.

The underpaid employees worked at ‘Steel Street Fish Market’ outlets at the Marketown Shopping Centre and the Charlestown Square Shopping Centre.

Fair Work inspectors audited the businesses last year after receiving requests for assistance from employees.

They found that 21 employees had been paid a flat rate of $18 for all hours worked.

Under the Fast Food Industry Award, they should have been paid up to $23.74 for ordinary hours, $28.49 on Saturdays, $33.24 on Sundays and $52.23 on public holidays.

A clothing allowance, pay-in-lieu-of-notice entitlements, leave pay and overtime penalty rates were also underpaid and pay-slip requirements were not met.

The underpaid workers include current and former employees who prepared take-away meals.

They were underpaid a total of $38,344 between August, 2014 and September, 2015, with nine at Charlestown underpaid more than $21,000 and 12 at Marketown underpaid almost $17,000.

The largest individual underpayment was $10,950 for an employee at Charlestown.

Operators Matthew Osborne and Steve Costi and their companies, SCS Corporate (Newcastle) Pty Ltd and CFFC Charlestown Pty Ltd, co-operated with the Fair Work Ombudsman’s investigation.

They have back-paid all workers, except for several who cannot be located.

Mr Osborne, Mr Costi and their companies have entered into an Enforceable Undertaking (EU) with the Fair Work Ombudsman aimed at encouraging behavioural change and future compliance.

Under the terms of EU, they have agreed to engage an independent specialist to audit their compliance with federal workplace laws, upgrade systems and processes to ensure future compliance with workplace laws, apologise to all underpaid employees, display a workplace notice detailing the contraventions and register with the Fair Work Ombudsman's My Account portal.

Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James says the fact that a Letter of Caution had previously been issued to the Charlestown business indicated a need for enforcement action.

"This matter highlights the need for employers to ensure they are aware of the minimum lawful pay rates their employees are entitled to, including penalty rates," she said.

Ms James says the Fair Work Ombudsman is committed to improving compliance rates in the fast food sector.

Audits of 565 take-away food businesses conducted during a recent national campaign finalised earlier this year found that 223 had short-changed 929 employees $582,410, with underpayment of minimum rates being the most prevalent wage error.

Tools to assist employers to comply with workplace laws are available at www.fairwork.gov.au.

Employers and workers can also call the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94 to obtain free advice and assistance from a team of expert advisers. An interpreter service is available on 13 14 50.

Follow Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James on Twitter @NatJamesFWO external-icon.png, the Fair Work Ombudsman @fairwork_gov_au External link icon or find us on Facebook www.facebook.com/fairwork.gov.au External link icon.

Sign up to receive the Fair Work Ombudsman’s media releases direct to your email inbox at www.fairwork.gov.au/mediareleases.

Media inquiries:

Eithne Johnston, Media Adviser
Mobile: 0439 835 855
eithne.johnston@fwo.gov.au

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