Boss pays bad rate but you keep silent for fear of losing visa? Don’t worry, you won’t!

Ram Khatry I 5 April 2019: Are you an international student or any other visa holder having to put up with illegal pay rate without proper loadings and yet keep silent simply because you are afraid of losing your visa and being deported?

Nothing of the sort will happen if you are being unfairly treated by your employer, suggests the national workplace relations tribunal.

Most visa holders, international students in particular, do not complain with the authorities even if they face extreme workplace exploitation because they are afraid if they do the government would know that they work more than 20 hours a week – a visa condition for foreign students. Some work painfully long hours without any payment and for the hours they do get paid, the rate is often below the national minimum rate.

In the past, a number of international students told that their employers often threaten them with “deportation” if they complain about pay rate and other workplace issues. It unfortunately is a common knowledge within many migrant communities.

However, Fair Work Commission has explicitly said that you will not be in trouble for sharing your story with the workplace tribunal.

“We have an agreement with the Department of Home Affairs that allows visa holders to seek our help without fear of their visa being cancelled,” Fair Work Ombdusman Sandra Parker said yesterday.

The quotation, made in relation to unfair treatment of international students by a former Chatime bubble tea franchisee in Sydney, should assure young men and women from countries like Nepal and India about the importance of Fair Work Ombudsman in protecting their rights as they live, work and study in Australia.

Lately, the Fair Work Ombudsman has been proactively monitoring workplace rights in the fast food industry – a popular employment sector among overseas students, specially those from Nepal, India and China.

The comments made by Ms Parker came in relation to Panol DC Pty Ltd, which formerly operated the Chatime Cinema City outlet on George Street, in the Sydney CBD. It is alleged that the company and its directors underpaid 17 workers, mostly international students, more than $46,000.

Carlo Benjamin Dela Cruz and Leiden Emmanuel Panol, directors of Panol DC, are facing the Federal Circuit Court in Sydney for their alleged involvement in the underpayments. In a press statement yesterday, Ms Parker said inspectors discovered the alleged underpayments during proactive audits.

The Fair Work Ombudsman has reiterated that all workers in Australia have the same workplace rights – whether you are a student or a citizen or a permanent visa holder.

She has urged people with “concerns about their pay to contact the Fair Work Ombudsman”.

The two directors of the Panol DC Pty Ltd face penalties of up to $12,600 per contravention and the maximum penalty for the company itself is up to $63,000 per contravention. The Fair Work Ombudsman is also seeking Court orders for the wronged employees to be back-paid in full, the Fair Work Ombudsman said.

A directions hearing is listed in the Federal Circuit Court in Sydney on 3 May 2019.

The allegations against Panol DC also include underpayment of public holiday penalty rates and breach of record-keeping laws.

Only last week, covered similar event about an Indian restaurant that allegedly failed to pay “compensation” to a cook who was “unfairly dismissed” in March last year.

Indian Food Catering Pty Ltd and its boss allegedly failed to comply with Fair Work Commission’s order to pay “$18,000 minus tax in compensation to the former employee”.

According to the Fair Work Ombudsman, the sacked worker was an Indian national who had been on a skilled 457 visa and was on a bridging visa at the time of his dismissal.

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