No mercy for these bastards

New hospitality business model – stealing wages

Ali was working the graveyard shift serving late-night city revellers in a Sydney convenience store since he arrived in Australia in 2022, according to the ABC.

For the first few months he received regular pay, which helped as he studied for his master’s degree in cybersecurity.

Soon, Ali’s boss began withholding his wages. His salary was often paid late, and rarely did it cover all the hours he had worked.

“I was very helpless, it was stressful,” recalled Ali, who spoke to the ABC using a pseudonym due to an ongoing legal process. “In Australia, I noticed that if employers know you’re on a student visa they will use you and throw you in the dirt.”

When he confronted his boss about the underpayment, he was fired.

All up he is owed more than $60,000 in lost wages and entitlements.  Ali is one of a growing number seeking help from the organisation in the last year, with a 43 per cent surge in people saying they’ve been underpaid wages, entitlements or superannuation.

The Fair Work Ombudsman has also answered 330,000 enquiries relating to wage theft and has recovered $509 million in unpaid wages and entitlements in the past financial year.

But not everyone has been so lucky.

Miriam, a regional New South Wales resident aged in her late 60s, sought help from Legal Aid NSW after she was unexpectedly made redundant as a retail worker in a small business.

She is also using a pseudonym to protect her privacy.

Miriam said the turning point was when she asked her employer for a pay slip — something she had not received during her more than 15 years working for the company — as she needed it to prepare for getting a pension.

“I asked for a pay slip on the Thursday and the following Tuesday he terminated me,” she said.

“I just feel stupid because I didn’t ask for things [like pay slips and superannuation] because I believed he was looking after me.”

Legal Aid calculated she was underpaid at least $130,000 in the last six years, the time limit imposed for underpayment claims.

Despite the Federal Circuit and Family Court ordering a payment of more than $140,000 to Miriam, she didn’t see a dollar as her employer filed for bankruptcy.

New laws to criminalise wage theft and close loopholes undercutting pay and conditions for workers come into effect from January 2025.

McDonald’s is facing a $250 million compensation claim over allegedly denying paid breaks to thousands of workers.

Some of the nation’s biggest employers and institutions have come under fire for large scale underpayments including Qantas, BHP, NAB, CBA, Coles, Woolworths, Super Retail Group and the ABC.

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