A city dental surgery is being dragged to court accused of underpaying 457 visa holders – an abuse of the system which Prime Minister Turnbull cited as warranting the popular scheme to be scrapped.
While going to the dentist is usually associated with pain for patients, it was a dental technician employed on a temporary working visa who felt the pain after allegedly being underpaid by $36,693 over a two-year period.
The South Korean national, now an Australian permanent resident, was employed between March 2012 and February 2014 at No Brace Centre in Melbourne’s CBD.
According to the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO), the surgery was formerly operated by Nobrace Centre Pty Ltd and its former part-owner Dr Ari Masters.
The FWO claimed that the man was paid a flat hourly rate of $15 throughout his employment – below even the base rate of pay under the relevant industry award, even before taking weekend and public holiday penalty rates and overtime rates into account.
Dr Masters then failed to comply with a notice to reimburse the worker, the FWO said. If found guilty in court, he faces a personal fine of up to $6,300 while Nobrace Centre Pty Ltd faces a penalty of up to $31,500.
It is not the first time Dr Masters and his business have faced legal action by the ombudsman. In 2015, separate legal proceedings were launched after another Korean dental technician was allegedly underpaid by more than $66,000. That matter is still before the courts.
“In this matter, we are alleging that a vulnerable worker has again been denied tens of thousands of dollars in wages and the employer has refused to cooperate with us to pay the worker his lawful entitlements,” ombudsman Natalie James said.
“We know that visa-holders can be particularly vulnerable in the workplace and we take very seriously any allegations relating to the exploitation of overseas workers.”
The 457 temporary skills visa was phased out after the government accused businesses of “rorting” the system at the expense of local workers.
It was replaced by the Temporary Skills Shortage (TSS) visa, which took full effect from March this year.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.