The case is the latest of a string of compliance actions by the Fair Work Ombudsman aimed at addressing systemic non-compliance within the 7-Eleven network.
Another 7-Eleven outlet in Brisbane is facing Court for allegedly short-changing overseas workers thousands of dollars and creating false records to try to cover it up.
The Fair Work Ombudsman has announced legal action against the operators of the 7-Eleven fuel outlet at 508 Vulture Street, East Brisbane, for allegedly underpaying two employees – both international students from India in their mid-20s – a total of $5593 over a five-month period in 2014.
Facing legal proceedings are the outlet’s manager and part-owner Mr Avinash Pratap Singh and a company he is a director of, S & A Enterprises (QLD) Pty Ltd.
The Fair Work Ombudsman conducted inquiries following media coverage relating to the outlet in 2015 and received a request for assistance from one of the employees.
It is alleged that Singh and S & A Enterprises paid flat hourly rates as low as $15 an hour, resulting in underpayment of minimum hourly rates, overtime rates, casual loadings and penalty rates for weekend and public holiday work. Singh and the company allegedly also created false employment records when making false entries into the 7-Eleven head office payroll system.
Singh and the company allegedly also knowingly provided false time-and-wage records to the Fair Work Ombudsman. The false records allegedly misstated the hours of work and rates of pay, which had the effect of concealing the alleged underpayment of the employees. The alleged underpayments have now been rectified. Singh and the company allegedly also contravened workplace laws by failing to fully comply with two Notices to Produce issued by the Fair Work Ombudsman.
Singh faces maximum penalties of up to $10,200 per contravention and S & A Enterprises up to $51,000. A directions hearing is listed in the Federal Circuit Court in Brisbane on 6 February 2017.
The Fair Work Ombudsman is also seeking Court Orders for S & A Enterprises to commission an audit of its compliance with workplace laws. In addition, the Fair Work Ombudsman is seeking a Court order for the company to display an in-store notice informing employees of entitlements.
The legal action against Singh and S & A Enterprises is the latest of a string of compliance actions by the Fair Work Ombudsman aimed at addressing systemic non-compliance within the 7-Eleven network. The Fair Work Ombudsman is in talks with 7-Eleven about an arrangement that will satisfy the Agency that head office is taking the necessary steps to build a franchise model that ensures workers employed are correctly paid.
Fair Work Ombudsman Ms Natalie James appealed to migration agents to assist in dispelling the myth that migrant workers are not entitled to what Australian citizens get.
James added it is “not uncommon for visa holders to work for businesses run by other recent arrivals, sometimes of the same nationality, perhaps a relative or family friend to whom they feel strong loyalty.”
“We find that these business operators may not understand their obligations under the law and often bring cultural norms and work customs from overseas,” she will say.
“It’s particularly concerning to us when my Inspectors, investigating serious underpayments, hear migrant business people tell us that they rang around to find out the ‘market rate’ for Korean or Chinese workers – rates that are inevitably well below the minimum wage of $17.70 an hour,” she said.
“There is no ‘market rate’ for different nationalities of workers. Australia’s minimum wages must be paid to all workers. Even workers on visas, irrespective of their visa conditions,” James concluded.
Inside Small Business