Restaurant’s whopping fine for ripping off workers

A GOLD Coast restaurant owner who tried to short-change his workers has been hit with a mammoth fine after a judge criticised his company for its "heinous" conduct.   Shigeo Ishiyama, who owns Sumurais Paradise in Surfers Paradise and previously owned Japanese Curry House Kawaii, was penalised $284,000 for paying his international workers as little as $8 an hour.  

Mr Ishimaya was caught by the Fair Work Ombudsman trying to use false records to cover up the fact he was grossly underpaying his employees, who were mostly Japanese people in their 20s living in Australian on working holiday visas.


The investigation, done by the Fair Work Ombudsman, found Mr Ishiyama and his company took a mere four months to underpay nine workers $59,000 in 2015.

Fair Work originally asked the company to provide pay information for the two restaurants and were even warned by inspectors not to try and fabricate time and wage records.

Inspectors later found that despite the warnings, the company provided false records on two separate occasions.

The workers, who were paid between $8 and $11 an hour, were instead entitled to a minimum hourly rate of $18.47 and penalty rates of $26.03 to $46.18.

The company was taken to the Federal Circuit Court where Judge Salvatore Vasta ruled Mr Ishiyama would have to pay his workers what they were owed as well as a penalty for his "certainly deliberate" exploitation.

The amount the company underpaid its workers would have saved it upwards of $180,000 a year.

"When one is looking at a small business, the temptation is great that such a saving to them would give them a competitive edge of all the other businesses in their area … Whilst one applauds persons trying to stay competitive, this cannot be done at the expense of employees and in breach of the FW Act," Judge Vasta said.

All of the Japanese workers have since been paid the amounts they were owed, as well as outstanding superannuation payments.



In a statement, Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James said they "welcomed" the judge's decision to seriously penalise the restaurants.

"We welcome the court's decision to impose near maximum penalties in this case, it is a reflection of the serious nature of this behaviour," she said.

Ms James said regardless of the country people were from, workers in Australia were entitled to the minimum wage.

"This case is another chance to make it clear that lawful minimum rates apply to all employees in Australia and they are not negotiable," she said.

"We are actively seeking to dispel the myth that it's OK to pay overseas workers a 'going rate' that undercuts the lawful minimum wage rates that apply in Australia.

"The wealth of free advice and educational material on our website - including in 30 different languages - and availability of our small business helpline means there is no excuse for mistakes, regardless of an employer's background."

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