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Sushi staff get raw deal

Sushi staff get raw deal

AS YOU sit down to eat your sushi roll, spare a thought for how much the people who serve you are being paid – or not being paid.

An audit of Japanese restaurants and Asian grocers in Melbourne has found that 75 per cent had broken workplace laws through breaches such as the underpaying of staff and not paying penalty rates.

The Fair Work Ombudsman audit followed ”numerous tip offs” that the restaurants and grocers were underpaying staff, many of whom are Asian nationals or international students. The completed audit of 32 employers centred on the Melbourne CBD and near Holmesglen station.

The 75 per cent level of non-compliance is high, with a 2010 Ombudsman survey of 56 Victorian 7-Eleven stores finding only 30 per cent did not comply with workplace laws, even though many of those stores also employed foreign students.

Fair Work Ombudsman Nicholas Wilson said its inspectors thought many of the breaches at the Japanese restaurants and Asian grocers were inadvertent. He said a number of employers did not know the minimum hourly pay rates or loadings. ”Some employers also advised they were unaware of the difference between part time and casual employment and, as a result, their employees did not receive their correct entitlements.”

A report by the Ombudsman expressed concern that some bookkeepers and accountants used by the employers were also unaware of workplace obligations. The Ombudsman said it retrieved $151,500 in unpaid wages for 134 workers as part of the blitz. But federal opposition workplace spokesman Eric Abetz last month criticised the Ombudsman for ”unfairly” targeting small business.

“Small business operators, when they seek advice from the Fair Work Ombudsman, feel like they’re putting their head in the lion’s mouth.”

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