| 04.11,19. 05:19 PM |
Crust pizza Hobart franchise fined $104,000 for paying foreign workers less than Australians
Photo: The international students were employed at Crust in North Hobart in 2016. (ABC News: Peter Curtis)
The operators of a pizza restaurant in Hobart have been fined $104,000 for discriminating against four foreign employees by adopting a different pay scheme and paying them much less than their Australian co-workers.
The employees — three Bangladeshi nationals and one Indian national — were all international students when they worked at the Crust Gourmet Pizza franchise on Elizabeth Street in North Hobart between January and July, 2016.
Their duties, detailed in a judgment handed down in the Federal Circuit Court, included making and garnishing pizzas, delivery driving, serving customers and cleaning.
They were paid a flat hourly rate of $12 for all hours they worked, plus $1 per pizza delivery.
They were also paid in cash, were not provided with pay slips and were required to deliver pizzas to more distant locations than Australian employees.
The foreigners were underpaid a total of $9,926 during their time at the outlet.
In contrast, the restaurant's Australian employees were paid at higher minimum rates and received penalty rates, with the money going into their bank accounts and pay slips provided.
Six of the adult Australian workers were paid ordinary rates of more than $18 an hour and penalty rates of up to $46.31 on public holidays.
Ten Australian employees at the outlet were found to have been underpaid a total of $6,252 due to the incorrect application of some provisions in the award.
Company 'deliberately' adopted different payment systems
The operator of the Crust outlet, QHA Foods Pty Ltd, and two of the company's directors and shareholders, Anandh Kumarasamy and Haridas Raghuram, admitted committing several breaches of workplace laws.
That included the provision of the Fair Work Act that makes it unlawful to discriminate against employees on the basis of their nationality.
QHA Foods was fined $80,000, while Mr Kumarasamy and Mr Raghuram — who Fair Work said were involved in managing the outlet — were each fined a further $12,000.
The Fair Work Ombudsman argued the business operators, who were Indian migrants, knew the foreigners were entitled to be paid minimum award pay rates but chose to pay them less.
Federal Circuit Court judge Barbara Baker agreed "there were two separate courses of conduct, one for the Australian employees and one for the international employees".
"Whilst they did the same work, there was a different remuneration scheme for both groups," Judge Baker wrote in her judgement.
"QHA deliberately adopted a different system of payment for the international employees."
Fair Work ombudsman Sandra Parker said inspectors investigated the matter after receiving a request for assistance from a foreign worker.
"Singling out [foreign] workers for underpayment is unacceptable conduct that will not be tolerated by us or the court," Ms Parker said.
"All employees have the same rights regardless of visa status and we encourage anyone with concerns to contact the Fair Work Ombudsman," she said.
It is the second time the Fair Work Ombudsman has secured penalties against an employer for discriminating against employees on the basis of their nationality, with the first matter also relating to foreign workers in Tasmania.
In a statement, Crust franchise operator Retail Food Group (RFG) said: "All franchisees of RFG are required to comply with their workplace obligations consistent with all other small businesses in Australia.
"RFG has implemented a wide range of measures in order to prevent non compliance occurring across its network.
"These measures include regular audits of franchisee stores by a dedicated wage-compliance team."
The RFG spokesperson said the company had, "also partnered with the National Retail Association to establish a program which gives our franchisees access to a variety of support tools, legal advice [including a toll-free workplace advice line] and ongoing training programs".
"This is all in an effort to help franchisees better understand and comply with their obligations as employers."