Pizza franchisee faces action over allegedly underpaying migrants

The Fair Work Ombudsman has commenced legal action against the operators of a Crust Gourmet Pizza franchise outlet in Hobart, alleging they discriminated against four overseas workers by paying them much less than Australian employees.

Facing the Federal Circuit Court is QHA Foods Pty Ltd, which operates the Crust outlet on Elizabeth Street in North Hobart. Also facing Court are two of the company’s directors and shareholders, Anandh Kumarasamy and Haridas Raghuram, who were involved in managing the outlet.

The discrimination allegation relates to three Bangladeshi nationals and one Indian national who were allegedly underpaid a total of $9,926 for work performed at the Crust Hobart outlet between January and July 2016. Kumarasamy and Raghuram are also Indian migrants.

The four workers, who were in Australia on student visas at the time, performed duties including making and garnishing pizzas, delivery driving, serving customers and cleaning. They were allegedly paid a flat hourly rate of $12 for all hours worked, plus $1 per pizza delivery, resulting in significant underpayment of the ordinary hourly rates, casual and evening loadings and penalty rates for weekend and public holiday work they were entitled to under the Fast Food Industry Award.

It is also alleged that the four workers were paid in cash and were not provided with pay slips, in breach of workplace laws. In contrast, the Australian employees at the Crust Pizza outlet were paid higher minimum rates of pay and penalty rates, including being paid penalty rates for weekend and public holiday work and a cents-per-kilometre rate for deliveries.

Six of the adult Australian employees were paid ordinary rates of more than $18 an hour and three were paid penalty rates of up to $46.31 on public holidays. The Australian workers were allegedly also paid into their bank accounts and provided with pay slips. However, it is alleged that the incorrect application of some provisions in the Award resulted in 10 Australian workers being underpaid a total of $6,252. The foreign workers and all Australian workers have been back-paid in full.

QHA Foods, Kumarasamy and Raghuram allegedly also breached workplace laws during the investigation by providing inspectors with records that had been altered by the deletion of the record of hours worked by the four overseas workers.

Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker says the regulator investigated after receiving a request for assistance from an overseas worker.

“We allege that four migrant workers were paid significantly less than other staff at a Crust pizza franchisee because they were not Australian. Migrant workers have the same rights and entitlements as Australian workers and must be paid according to our national awards,” Ms Parker said.

Ms Parker said it was concerning that the case again involved operators allegedly breaching the workplace rights of an employee from the same cultural background.

“Employers should note that we are prioritising matters involving requests for assistance from migrant workers as they can be particularly vulnerable in the workplace and reluctant to complain. We encourage any workers with concerns about their wages or entitlements to contact the Fair Work Ombudsman.”

QHA Foods Pty Ltd faces maximum penalties of up to $54,000 per breach and Kumarasamy, Raghuram face penalties of up to $10,800 per breach. The Fair Work Ombudsman is also seeking a Court Order requiring QHA Foods to commission workplace relations training for managerial staff.

A directions hearing is listed in the Federal Circuit Court in Hobart on 23 November.

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