Mamak restaurant in Sydney pays dearly for underpaying workers

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PETALING JAYA: A Malaysian Mamak restaurant paid dearly for underpaying its workers in Haymarket, Sydney.

It was fined almost AUD300,000 (RM919,000) for paying workers as little as AUD11 (RM33.70) an hour.

Federal Circuit Court Judge Justin Smith found the Goulburn Street restaurant had deliberately ignored its workplace obligations “to maximise profit”, Sydney Morning Herald reported.

The legal action against the popular restaurant was taken by the Fair Work Ombudsman.

An Ombudsman probe found six workers, including five visa holders from non-English speaking backgrounds, were collectively underpaid more than AUD87,000.

They were paid as little as AUD11 an hour between February 2012 and April 2015.

Restaurant owner-operators Joon Hoe Lee, Julian Lee and Alan Wing-Keung Au were each fined around AUD36,000. Their company, Mamak Pty Ltd, was penalised AUD184,960.

The news report stated that Judge Smith on Friday found the underpayments came from informal research based on what other restaurants were paying staff.

“They discovered that there were three approaches – the first were the star-rated restaurants which paid according to the award, the second were medium restaurants that followed the award half the time and the third included small restaurants that just paid illegal rates.

“Mamak took the third approach. The fact that there are many restaurants in the industry that do not comply with their legal obligations does not exculpate the respondents in any way.”

Judge Smith said the restaurant apparently wanted to maximise profit although it knew it was the employees who were responsible for the success of the business.

“Not only did the respondents know that the employees were being paid less than their legal entitlements, but they also knew that their records were not kept in accordance with the law.”

The Mamak Malaysian restaurants in Haywood, Chatswood and Melbourne, as well as a food preparation factory in Marrickville, will continue to be monitored until the end of the year.

Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James said minimum wage rates applied to everyone in Australia – including visa holders.

“It is incumbent on all businesses operating in Australia to understand and apply Australian laws.”