The operators of Mamak have been fined almost $300,000 for under-paying staff. Photo: Jennifer Soo An Ombudsman investigation found six employees at the popular inner Sydney restaurant were collectively underpaid more than $87,000. Photo: Supplied
Mamak attracts large crowds, but has not escaped the attention of the Fair Work Ombudsman. Photo: Supplied
People queuing up to enter Mamak restaurant in Haymarket. Photo: James Brickwood
The operators of Mamak Malaysian restaurant in Haymarket have been fined almost $300,000 for paying workers as little as $11 an hour.
Federal Circuit Court Judge Justin Smith found the Goulburn Street restaurant had deliberately ignored its workplace obligations “to maximise profit”.
The Fair Work Ombudsman took legal action against the popular inner Sydney restaurant which relied on informal market research to set wages.
An Ombudsman investigation found six employees, including five visa holders from non-English speaking backgrounds, were collectively underpaid more than $87,000. They were paid as little as $11 an hour between February 2012 and April 2015.
Restaurant owner-operators Joon Hoe Lee, Julian Lee and Alan Wing-Keung Au were each fined around $36,000. Their company Mamak Pty Ltd was penalised $184,960.
Judge Smith on Friday found the underpayments came from informal research based on what other restaurants were paying staff.
“They discovered that there were three approaches – the first were the star-rated restaurants which paid according to the Award, the second were medium restaurants that followed the Award half the time and the third included small restaurants that just paid illegal rates,” Judge Smith said.
“Mamak took the third approach. The fact that there are many restaurants in the industry that do not comply with their legal obligations does not exculpate the respondents in any way.”
Judge Smith said the restaurant deliberately chose to ignore salary award rates to maximise profit.
“That approach, of course, was taken at the cost of the employees, who in reality, funded the success of the business,” he said.
“Not only did the respondents know that the employees were being paid less than their legal entitlements, but they also knew that their records were not kept in accordance with the law.”
The Haymarket restaurant and Mamak Malaysian restaurants in Chatswood and the Melbourne CBD and a food preparation factory at Marrickville will be audited until the end of the year.
Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James said researching “black market wage rates in an industry is not the way to determine how to pay your staff”.
“Minimum wage rates apply to everyone in Australia – including visa holders – and they are not negotiable,” she said.
“While I understand there are cultural challenges and vastly different laws in other parts of the world, it is incumbent on all businesses operating in Australia to understand and apply Australian laws.”
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