Two Melbourne restaurants hit with $200k penalties for underpaying staff

A Melbourne restaurateur who runs Tina’s Noodle Kitchen in Box Hill and Dainty Sichuan in Melbourne’s CBD has been hit with penalties totalling almost $200,000 for underpaying migrant workers.

The Federal Circuit Court ordered Ye Shao to pay $15,000 and his companies – Wynn Sichuan Pty Ltd and Nine Dragons Pty Ltd – $95,000 and $88,000 respectively. His in-house accountant, Yizhu “Jessica” Ding, admitted to being an accessory to the underpayment and record-keeping contraventions, and was hit with a penalty of her own of $11,000.

The action came as a result of a June 2016 Fair Work Ombudsman audit of the two companies’ books that uncovered the underpayment of 30 employees a total of just over $30,000.

The workers were paid flat hourly rates of between $10 per hour and $23.33 per hour, in breach of the Restaurant Industry Award 2010, and were forced to work 10-hour shifts six or seven days a week.

“The exploitation of migrant workers is unacceptable as they can be

particularly vulnerable in the workplace due to language barriers or visa status,” Fair Work Ombudsman, Sandra Parker, said. “Minimum wage rates apply to everyone in Australia, including visa-holders, and they are not negotiable.

“This outcome should serve as a warning to all employers to pay their workers correctly. We encourage any employees with concerns about their pay or entitlements to speak up and contact the Fair Work Ombudsman,” Parker added.

Judge Grant Riethmuller said a “large proportion” of the restaurant staff were visa holders who spoke Mandarin as their primary language.

“Employees with these backgrounds are in a particularly vulnerable position, and that is a factor to which I give significant weight,” Judge Riethmuller said.

The workers involved were back-paid prior to the court action.

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