Canberra cafe allegedly underpays staff

THE operators of Cafe Garema, twin brothers Mr Yong “Johnny” Yang and Mr Zhi “Jackie” Yang, are facing court for allegedly breaking serious record-keeping and payslip laws. 

Operators of Cafe Garema are facing court for allegedly breaking serious record-keeping and payslip laws.
Photo: Facebook.

The Fair Work Ombudsman has commenced legal action against Yang Brothers Investment Pty Ltd (YBI) and its twin brother directors, for allegedly failing to make or keep appropriate records as required under Australia’s workplace laws.

YBI failed to record employees’ names, commencement dates, hours worked, rates of pay, payments made, leave accrued or taken, superannuation payments, or issue payslips.

Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James says serious record keeping failures are of grave concern for the Agency.

“When we come across alleged record-keeping that is so sub-standard it prevents our inspectors from determining whether employees are receiving their minimum entitlements, we take these matters very seriously,” Ms James says.

“This serious failure to keep adequate and lawful employment records obstructed my inspectors and prevented them from determining just how much the workers had been underpaid.”

Despite the poor record keeping practices, the Fair Work Ombudsman also alleges that YBI underpaid 12 employees their minimum entitlements under the relevant Award.

Ms James says, based on records kept by YBI covering a two week period, inspectors were able to identify that the café’s employees received flat rates of between $14 and $20 per hour. 

The records showed that YBI allegedly underpaid twelve employees a total of $1353 over the two week period.

And it’s not the first time the Agency had contacted the business.  In 2012, Johnny Yang, the then manager of Café Garema, was provided with significant educational material by Fair Work Inspectors after one of his employees lodged a complaint with the Agency.

Ms James says another concerning fact in this case is that many of the employees were young workers, the youngest being just 17 years of age at the time of employment.

“We are particularly focused on assisting young workers because they can be vulnerable if they are not fully aware of their rights or reluctant to complain,” Ms James says.

Under the “Restaurant Industry Award 2010” at the time of employment, Level Two casual employees who were aged 17 to 19 were entitled to receive between $13.85 and $19.63 for ordinary hours, including casual loading, and up to $23.55 on weekends, depending on their age. 

YBI has advised the Fair Work Ombudsman that it has back-paid one of the 12 employees. 

“We see far too many examples of sub-standard record-keeping that makes it impossible to ensure workers receive what they are owed,” Ms James says.

YBI faces a maximum penalty of up to $27,000 per record keeping and pay slip contravention and Johnny and Jackie Yang face maximum penalties of up to $5400 each per record keeping and payslip contravention.

In relation to the underpayment contraventions, YBI faces a maximum penalty of up to $54,000 and Johnny and Jackie Yang face maximum penalties of up to $10,800 each per contravention.

In addition to penalties, the Fair Work Ombudsman is also seeking orders that the company and the Yang brothers jointly and severally pay the amount as remains outstanding of the total underpayment amount of $1353 plus interest to the Fair Work Ombudsman on behalf of the 12 underpaid employees.

The Agency is also seeking Court orders that YBI engage a third party to undertake an audit of compliance; that all directors and managers at the YBI undertake workplace relations law training; and that Johnny and Jackie Yang be restrained from contravening workplace laws in future.

It is the second litigation filed in 2017 involving record-keeping contraventions in Canberra.

Information via fairwork.gov.au or on 13 13 94.  

 

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