Chinatown businesses face pay investigations

The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) is making surprise visits to restaurants, cafés and fast food outlets in inner Sydney food precincts this week to make sure that workers are being paid correctly.

3 June 2022 

About 50 businesses are being inspected in the Haymarket, Chinatown, Darling Harbour, Barangaroo, Surry Hills and Darlinghurst precincts.

Fair Work Inspectors are in the popular dining districts to assess compliance with workplace laws by speaking with business owners, managers and employees and requesting records.

The regulator is acting after receiving intelligence indicating potential breaches of workplace laws by businesses in the area.

Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said the inspections include a focus on eateries that are employing visa holders.

“Our intelligence indicates inner Sydney food precincts employ many visa holders, who may have limited English skills or understanding of their rights, making them vulnerable to exploitation.”

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“All employees have the same basic workplace entitlements, regardless of nationality and visa status. Protecting vulnerable employees such as visa holders and improving compliance in the fast food, restaurant and café sector are ongoing priorities for the Fair Work Ombudsman,” Ms Parker said.

“If our inspectors find breaches of workplace laws, we will hold employers to account and consider enforcement action where appropriate. Any workers with concerns about their pay should contact us.”

This week’s surprise inspections are part of a national program that has previously targeted food precincts in Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney, Adelaide and Perth, Darwin, Launceston, the Gold Coast and most recently, inner south Melbourne.

In December, the FWO released its findings of inspections targeting food precincts in Adelaide’s Chinatown, with more than $189,000 in underpayments recovered for 306 workers. Inspections of Hobart eateries recovered more than $580,000 in unpaid wages for 376 workers.

Fast food, restaurant and café matters accounted for 36% of the Fair Work Ombudsman’s new litigations in 2020-21. The FWO secured court-ordered penalties of $1,841,347 from litigation decisions in this sector. Visa holder workers were involved in 32% of all litigations that year.

The FWO has an agreement with the Department of Home Affairs, called the Assurance Protocol, where visa holders can ask for our help without fear of their visa being cancelled for breaches of their work-related visa conditions. The FWO has free information and targeted resources for visa holder workers.

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