Legal action against the operators of a café on Degraves Street in Melbourne’s central business district has been commenced by The Fair Work Ombudsman.
Facing court is Aisha & Umma Enterprises Pty Ltd, which trades as RMB Café.
Fair Work Inspector issued a Compliance Notice to the company in June 2020 after forming a belief that 13 workers, engaged variously as food and beverage attendants and cooks, had not been paid all entitlements owed under the Restaurant Industry Award 2010 for work performed between May 2017 and August 2019.
The workers included five International student visa holders.
“The inspector formed a belief that the employees were underpaid minimum wages for ordinary hours, weekend penalty rates, and public holiday rates.”
The FWO alleges that the company, without reasonable excuse, failed to comply with the Compliance Notice, which required the back-payment of the workers’ outstanding entitlements in full. The Compliance Notice required a total payment of $36,479.26 to the employees.
Aisha & Umma has paid a total of $4,701.42 to date.
Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said the regulator would continue to enforce workplace laws and take businesses to court where lawful requests are not complied with.
“Where employers do not comply, we will take appropriate action to protect employees. A court can order a business to pay penalties in addition to back-paying workers.”
The Fair Work Ombudsman does not tolerate the exploitation of any worker, including migrants who can be vulnerable due to factors such as limited English or little understanding of their rights under Australian law. All workers in Australia have the same rights, regardless of citizenship or visa status.
Ombudsman spokesperson said, “We prioritise matters that involve migrant workers, who we know can be vulnerable to exploitation.”
In 2020–21, Ombudsman secured $2,082,051 in court-ordered penalties in matters involving migrant workers and recovered $824,443 in unpaid wages.
One important point for migrant workers to remember is that Fair Work Ombudsman has an agreement with the Department of Home Affairs, called the Assurance Protocol, where visa holders can ask for our help without fear of their visa being cancelled for breaches of their work-related visa conditions. Information and conditions are available on their webpage for visa holder workers.
Any employees with concerns about their pay or entitlements should contact the Fair Work Ombudsman for free assistance,”Ms. Parker said.
The FWO is seeking a penalty against Aisha & Umma Enterprises Pty Ltd. The company faces a penalty of up to $33,300.
The regulator is also seeking an order for the company to comply with the Compliance Notice, which includes rectifying any underpayments in full, plus interest and superannuation.
A directions hearing is listed in the Federal Circuit and Family Court in Melbourne on 11 November 2021.
Employers and employees can visit www.fairwork.gov.au or call the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94 for free advice and assistance about their rights and obligations in the workplace. An interpreter service is available on 13 14 50. Small businesses can find targeted resources at the Small Business Showcase.