Pizza bosses heavily fined for paying South Asian students lower rate than Australians

6 November 2019 I Operators of a Tasmanian pizza shop have been heavily fined for discriminating against four South Asians in 2016, who were international students at the time, by paying them a much lower hourly rate than awarded to their Australian employees.

The discrimination was so severe that the youths received no penalty rates or loadings whatsoever whereas three of their colleagues, who were local Australians, received as much as $46.31 per hour on public holidays – that’s $34.31 per hour higher than the pay rate the discrimination victims received.

According to a Fair Work Ombudsman press release, the pizza outlet and its operators have already admitted to committing unlawful discrimation against the four international students.

“QHA Foods Pty Ltd, which operates the Crust outlet on Elizabeth Street in North Hobart, has been penalised $80,000 and two of the company’s directors and shareholders, Anandh Kumarasamy and Haridas Raghuram, who were involved in managing the outlet, have each been penalised an additional $12,000, in the Federal Circuit Court,” the Ombudsman said in a press release last Monday.

The victims, three from Bangladesh and one from India, worked for Mr Kumarasamy and Mr Raghuram between January and July 2016 during which they were underpaid a total of $9,926, it is learnt.

Fair Work Ombudsman claims that the offending business operators, who are Indian migrants, knew that the then international students were entitled to minimum Award pay rates but chose to discriminate against them by paying them significantly less than their Australian counterparts.

The matter came to light after a migrant worker requested for assistance, Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said in the press release, “It is particularly concerning that this matter involved business operators breaching the rights of workers from within their own migrant community. Singling out migrant workers for underpayment is unacceptable conduct that will not be tolerated by us or the Court.”

Ms Parker maintained that “discrimination against workers on the basis of national extraction or race can be a driver behind workplace exploitation” and “employees have the same rights regardless of visa status”.

The Bangladeshi and Indian workers were paid a flat hourly rate of $12 and an additional $1 per pizza delivery. This, Fair Work Ombudsman pointed out, resulted in a significant underpayment of ordinary hourly rates, casual and evening loadings and penalty rates for weekend and public holiday which they were all entitled to under the Fast Food Industry Award.

What is more, the exploited South Asians were made to deliver pizzas to more distant locations than Australian employees of the North Hobart pizza outlet.

They were also not provided with any pay slips which was yet another breach of Australian workplace laws.

“In contrast, Australian employees at the Crust Pizza outlet were paid higher minimum rates of pay and penalty rates, including being paid penalty rates for weekend and public holiday work and a cents-per-kilometre rate for deliveries,” the Fair Work Ombudsman further added.

Six of the adult Australian employees were paid ordinary rates of more than $18 an hour and three were paid penalty rates of up to $46.31 on public holidays. The Australian workers were allegedly also paid into their bank accounts and provided with pay slips.

Employers and employees seeking assistance can visit www.fairwork.gov.au or call the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94. An interpreter service is available on 13 14 50.

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